Under the Dome

March 14, 2014

Democratic challenger files ethics, elections complaints against NC Rep. Tim Moffitt

NC House candidate Brian Turner on Friday made his accusations against state Rep. Tim Moffitt official, filing complaints with the State Ethics Commission and the NC State Board of Elections.

N.C. House candidate Brian Turner on Friday made his accusations against state Rep. Tim Moffitt official, filing identical complaints with the State Ethics Commission and the State Board of Elections.

Turner, a Democrat challenging the incumbent Republican Moffitt for an Asheville-area House seat, claims in the three-page complaint that Moffitt asked him to withdraw from the race so he could focus on a bid for House speaker and indicated that he could help Turner get a job heading UNC-TV in return. Moffitt and a third person at the meeting, Buncombe County Commissioner David King, deny any such offer was made.

In the complaint, Turner says he believes “Moffitt’s offer of employment at UNC-TV in exchange for withdrawing from the race is in direct violation” of ethics and elections laws. One statute he cited makes it a misdemeanor for anyone “to give or promise, in return for political support or influence, any political appointment or support for political office.”

The complaints stem from a Feb. 24 meeting between Moffitt and Turner at an Asheville restaurant. Moffitt and King have said Moffitt merely suggested that Turner would make a good candidate to head UNC-TV because of his experience as a producer at MTV and more recent work as a vice chancellor at UNC Asheville. A national search for a new UNC-TV director is expected to begin later this year.

Moffitt, a two-term legislator, and Turner, who is running for office for the first time, are competing for House District 116, which includes parts of Buncombe County. Phone messages left Friday on Moffitt’s cellphone and business phone weren’t returned. On Thursday, he deemed any suggestion that he offered to help Turner get a job if he left the race as “categorically false.” Turner declined to comment other than to confirm that the complaints were filed.

N.C. Republican Party spokesman Daniel Keylin said Turner’s complaint is “nothing more than a shameful political stunt that has already been invalidated by a witness at the same meeting,” referring to King. King, a Republican, said he has voted for Moffitt but is friends with both men.

Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, called the situation bizarre. “To actually try to talk your opponent out of running against you is just taking it to an extreme I’ve never seen before,” he said.

Greene also said it could hurt Moffitt’s chances of becoming speaker in 2015. Moffitt is one of several House Republicans expected to vie for the post. “You don’t want the whiff of scandal attached to your party leadership,” Greene said.

Patrick Gannon writes for the NCInsider.com, a government news service owned by The News & Observer. www.ncinsider.com

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