NC Democratic Party leader Voller says it’s time for party to unify

rchristensen@newsobserver.comJune 18, 2013 

Randy Voller

— State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller said Tuesday he hopes the party infighting is behind him, after he signed an unusual settlement agreement with several of his critics.

Voller, the mayor of Pittsboro, agreed to a settlement that clarified the procedure for appointing the party’s executive director and ended the contracts of two of the party’s consultants.

This comes at a time when critics had been calling for a vote of confidence on his leadership at the state Democratic Executive Committee meeting in August. He said he hoped this would lay the problems to rest.

“It’s time (for Democrats) to unify,” Voller said in a meeting with News & Observer editorial writers and reporters. “It’s time to get behind Kay Hagan on down. And it’s time to stop squabbling and to start working.”

Voller, who was elected party chairman in February, faces a difficult task of bringing the Democratic Party back from its worst situation in a century – where it has lost control of all three branches of state government.

But Voller, like his predecessor David Parker, has been plagued by discontent within the party. There have been complaints about him naming himself interim executive director; about a trip to Las Vegas with friends in March to watch a basketball game in which he used a Democratic Party American Express Card to charge $3,327; about substantial consulting contracts awarded to friends; and $286,000 in liens from his contracting business.

Last week, Nina Szlosberg-Landis, the first vice chair, resigned her position citing the difficulty in working with Voller. There has also been a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the party’s former top fundraiser.

Voller attributed much of the discord to factionalism that would exist in the party even if he had not become chairman.

“That civil war was already undergoing whether I was here or not,” Voller said in response to a question of why he didn’t just get out of the way if the Democrats were engaged in a civil war. “There are different factions that are not going to accept somebody as chair for whatever reason – because they have their own view of what a chair should do, or it wasn’t their person.”

“People have to put this stuff aside and go forward,” Voller said.

“Do I wish that I could change some things?” Voller said. “Yes I do. Do I acknowledge mistakes. Yes I do. But my mission is to pick up the fumble and move forward, knowing there are lots of people behind what we are doing that want to see us successful.”

Voller said he is finding broad support across the state, as he travels into counties that rarely see a Democratic chairman.

Supporters say Voller will gain his footing as he becomes better known.

“Randy has a good history as mayor of Pittsboro, but he does not have that linear history in North Carolina politics,” said David Harris, a Durham attorney active in Democratic politics who accompanied Voller. “So any new kid on the block, if you stubbed your toe, you might as well have stubbed your whole foot.”

The settlement agreement comes after four Democratic officers – John Burns, Greg Flynn, Treva Johnson and Montica Talmadge – filed a petition against Voller.

Among other things, they questioned whether Voller followed party rules in naming himself interim executive director. The party has since named Robert Dempsey as the full-time executive director. The agreement says the party rules are vague, and in the future the position will only be filled in consultation with the party’s Executive Council.

Voller also agreed to end the contracts with Jim Neal, a consultant who lives in Chapel Hill and Chicago and a former U.S. Senate candidate, and Michael Carmichael of Carrboro. Neal’s $7,000-per-month contract in particular raised eyebrows in a party that is facing financially tight times.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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