Just days before the election, the Wake County Republican and Democratic parties traded barbs about the histories of late car tax payments by candidates running for the county Board of Commissioners.
Wake Republican Party Chairwoman Donna Williams said in a news release Saturday that records show John Burns, a Democratic board candidate, has been late paying car taxes 22 of 23 times since 2001 and received 10 traffic tickets between 2006 and 2010 – mainly for having an expired registration.
Wake Democratic Party Caucus Director Perry Woods countered that Commissioner Phil Matthews, the Republican chairman of the board, had paid his car taxes late 25 times since 2003.
Burns says the traffic tickets, including driving while license revoked, were dismissed. Matthews claimed he had paid his car taxes on time despite county records showing late payments over the years linked to his name and address.
Burns is running against Republican Commissioner Paul Coble, and Matthews is running against Democrat Matt Calabria for two of four county board contests on Tuesday’s ballot. The stakes are high, as a loss by any of the four Republican commissioners would flip the board to a Democratic majority.
Campaign attacks have ratcheted up in the past week. Using material posted by Lady Liberty 1885, a conservative blogger, the GOP pointed Saturday to Burns’ history of paying car taxes after the date when interest accumulates on the bill, including being 405 days late on a 2011 bill.
“Everyone makes a mistake now and then, but Mr. Burns has a pattern of irresponsibility that is shocking and surely calls his judgment into question,” Williams said in the statement.
Williams said Burns “doesn’t believe the rules that we all live under apply to him.”
Burns responded in a statement Saturday. “I’ve been late getting my car registered, but I’ve paid every penny I owe, and these charges have all been dismissed,” he said. “This is another last minute desperate attack to talk about anything other than my opponent’s failed record on the county commission, including raising his own pay nearly five times than what he raised teacher pay.”
Later Saturday, Woods issued a statement saying that the GOP had engaged in a “hypocritical attack” and that “this election is about education and our future, not when candidates pay car taxes.”
“How can the Wake GOP ‘trust’ Mr. Matthews with the budget after complaining about Mr. Burns?” Woods said.
In an interview Saturday afternoon, Matthews said he was surprised by the accusations about his tax record.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Matthews said. “I’ve paid my taxes on time as a commissioner.”