FAYETTEVILLE — A legal dispute between former Sen. Margaret Dickson of Fayetteville and her successor, Wesley Meredith, over campaign ads in 2010 has ended.
Dickson, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County against Meredith, a Republican, after he defeated her in a hard-fought election heavy with negative advertising. Also named as a defendant was the N.C. Republican Executive Committee, an arm of the state GOP.
Dickson’s lawsuit claimed Meredith and the state GOP were deceptive to voters about who paid for their television advertising. Some thought one of Meredith’s ads portrayed Dickson as a prostitute.
Last week, Dickson’s lawyer voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, which means her claims could be refiled.
Meredith said in a statement Friday he was confident he and state Republican leaders had not violated any state laws during the 2010 campaign.
“We are glad to have this matter behind us, and I look forward to focusing on my efforts representing the voters of Cumberland County,” he said.
Meredith, 49, is a former Fayetteville city councilman who won a second term in Senate District 19 last year.
Dickson, 63, was appointed to the Senate seat in January 2010, following the resignation of Tony Rand, the former Senate majority leader. Before her appointment, Dickson had served in the N.C. House of Representatives.
Her lawyer, John Wallace of Raleigh, said the dismissal was filed “to conform to the decision” in November by the N.C. Court of Appeals in a similar lawsuit brought by a Democrat against state Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican, and the N.C. Republican Executive Committee. The appellate court ruled in favor of Hise and the GOP, which had won a summary judgment having the claims dismissed.
A state law requires political ads to include a statement naming the candidate or organization that paid for them. Dickson’s lawsuit claimed the ads falsely said the Meredith campaign paid for them, when instead it was the N.C. Republican Executive Committee.
Dickson’s lawsuit said a Republican deception took place in 10 Senate races across North Carolina, including hers, that were won by Republicans in November 2010.
Her lawsuit accused the Republican Executive Committee of buying more than $170,000 in television ads for Meredith through a media buyer called American Media & Advocacy.
The executive committee reported its purchases for the Meredith ads as “in-kind” contributions to Meredith’s campaign, the lawsuit said. But when the ads were broadcast, disclaimers said Meredith paid for them.
The lawsuit said deception saved Meredith money, because many TV markets charge candidates cheaper rates than state organizations.