Voller tries to unite a party divided over him

June 19, 2013 

If all North Carolina Democrats were as tenacious about staying in office as their party chairman, Randy Voller, the news today would be about when House Speaker Joe Hackney would be sending the budget to Gov. Walter Dalton.

But most Democrats’ grip hasn’t been as tight. Some, such as Dalton, didn’t win election, and others like Hackney retired after Republicans took over the General Assembly.

Voller did win the chairmanship, and he’s not letting go despite a series of snafus involving Las Vegas expenses, party consulting contracts, infighting between party fractions, the resignation of the party’s first vice chair over differences with him and the uncomfortable fact that he owes a quarter million dollars in back taxes due to troubles with his real estate business.

Voller, the mayor of Pittsboro, met with his party’s opponents in a kind of Potsdam Conference last week where they discussed how to administer their own defeated empire. He agreed to drop consulting contracts he had awarded to friends and to follow a clarified procedure for appointing the party’s executive director. He hopes that quiets calls for his resignation and focuses the party on working together.

“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 [Sen.] Kay Hagan on down. And it’s time to stop squabbling and to start working.”

One of the remarkable political stories of this year is that at a time when Republican state lawmakers are alienating voters with a vengeance – the legislature has a 20 percent approval rating according to a recent PPP poll – the Democratic Party has sunk into division and irrelevance.

For now, party stalwarts will try to get along and move forward, but it’s going to be hard for Democrats to gather round while concerns about Voller are an elephant in the room. So long as that’s the case, those other elephants will be safely in their seats.

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