DURHAM — The Durham Republican Party says Durham County might have violated state law by providing county resources for what the party called an “overly partisan event” by an organization advocating for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Republican Party called for the cancellation of the “Patients Over Politics Tour” rally by Doctors for America at the Lincoln Community Health Center. The rally, co-sponsored by the private nonprofit center and the health coalition Partnership for a Healthy Durham, took place Tuesday.
The tour is a 12-day trip from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, asking all politicians to support the Affordable Care Act.
Doctors for America representatives described the organization as a nonpartisan group of doctors and medical students from across the U.S. on a mission to improve public health and ensure everyone has access to quality health care.
Prior to the event, the Durham Republican Party issued an email objecting to the use of public resources for an event that “supports one side of a partisan issue that is germane to the upcoming presidential election.” The party objected to a county press release promoting the event, the use of the county-owned facility that is leased by Lincoln, and co-sponsorship by organizations that receive public grants.
“This appears to be a clear violation of North Carolina General Statutes” that prohibit governmental endorsement or influence in issues that will appear on an upcoming ballot, the release said.
“We all want patients to receive good care though we may disagree with how it is to be done,” wrote Dr. Ada Fisher, a North Carolina Republican National Committee member, in a statement. “If there is to be a discussion of how care is to be delivered, then the conservative and Republican side should be brought to the table as well.”
Doctors for America, the Lincoln health center, and county representatives said affordable health care is not a partisan issue and public money was not used inappropriately.
“Health is a nonpartisan issue,” said county Public Health Director Gayle Harris, who attended the rally.
County Attorney Lowell Siler told commissioners the county wasn’t breaking a state law that prohibits municipalities from using public money to endorse a referendum, election or a candidate for public office.