State employees association website paints Dan Forest as extremist

Group uses GOP lt. governor candidate’s survey, own video

lbonner@newsobserver.comOctober 24, 2012 

Dan Forest

The state employees association unveiled a website Tuesday that highlights the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor’s views on topics ranging from workers benefits to the environment to the state budget in its stepped-up attempt to paint Dan Forest as an extremist.

The site links to Forest’s responses to candidate surveys and one of his own videos where he talks or writes about “Islamic extremists” who want to impose Shariah law, a United Nations plan for sustainable development called Agenda 21, and constitutional limits on budget growth.

“He is probably the most radical candidate who’s ever run for North Carolina office,” said Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. “The vast majority of some of those viewpoints are way outside the mainstream, even within the GOP circle.”

SEANC has endorsed Forest’s Democratic opponent Linda Coleman, a former state House member and state personnel director. Its political committee is running a TV ad that highlights Forest’s opposition to the minimum wage and claims that Forest doesn’t want cancer screenings for women.

Forest, in a prepared statement, did not respond to the issues raised on the website, but called them “desperate attacks,” and asked whether Coleman would be beholden to SEANC since it was doing so much campaign work for her.

“The attacks being leveled by the State Employees Union (SEANC) are to be expected in the closing days of the campaign season,” Forest wrote. “The real question is not my response to the desperate attacks, but where is Linda Coleman? The SEANC union is apparently running her campaign.

“I’m beginning to think I am running against Dana Cope rather than Linda Coleman. People want a lieutenant governor who can fight their own battles. Where is Linda Coleman? If the unions are running her campaign, will they run the office of lieutenant governor if she is elected?”

Cope said he had no direct contact with the Coleman campaign.

Coleman said Tuesday night that she saw the site, but was busy campaigning and didn’t have time to read the details. She rejected Forest’s assertion that SEANC was running her campaign.

“I think Dan is just trying to come up with some kind of defense,” she said.

SEANC mined Forest’s answers to candidate questionnaires from the conservative Civitas Institute, tea party groups and the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation to create the website. Forest chose “reduced benefits for workers” in response to a FreeEnterprise question on how the state should pay its $2.6 billion debt to the federal government for unemployment benefits.

On the Civitas questionnaire, Forest agreed that the state should have a constitutional amendment limiting growth of state spending to a combination of inflation and population growth.

Though SEANC did not reference it, Forest said in a TV interview that that if the state had adhered to that budget formula beginning in 1980, the budget would be $10 billion rather than $20 billion.

“We’re spending $10 billion more than we need to in our general fund budget,” Forest said.

Many of Forest’s positions the website highlights are mainstream Republican positions, such as his interest in repealing the federal health care law, his support for coastal and onshore drilling for oil and gas, and in prohibiting state money from going to Planned Parenthood.

But he also took stances that are not part of the state’s mainstream political debate.

Opposition to United Nation’s Agenda 21, a resolution adopted in 1992 on global sustainable growth, and opposition to Shariah law – Islamic ethical, spiritual and legal teachings – are faint blips on the state’s political radar. A few House members sponsored legislation last year that would have prohibited “foreign law” from being used in state court rulings, but it never came to a vote of the full House.

Opposition to Shariah law is more prominent in other states’ political debates, said David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University, but “it tends to be more affiliated with the more tea party side of the Republican Party.”

Agenda 21 is even less familiar to the public, McLennan said. Some opponents consider the resolution an international conspiracy to take away property rights.

State tea party groups embraced Forest in the primary, and he won the endorsement of the Eagle Forum PAC, a conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. Forest, a former partner in an architecture firm, is making his first run for office. Cope said Forest was “trying to hide” some of the views he expressed in the primary.

SEANC workers passed around Almond Joy candy bars during a news conference Tuesday morning, with Cope’s take on the candidate mimicking the candy commercial: “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”

Pat McCrory, the Republican candidate for governor, recorded a robocall for Forest where he tells voters, “I need him in my administration.”

McCrory endorsed a state GOP resolution against Agenda 21 earlier this year, but his campaign did not respond to questions about how closely his views match Forest’s on other issues.

Bonner: 919-829-4821

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