In an effort to build pressure on a North Carolina lawmaker who has been asked to resign amid misconduct allegations, the youth arm of the state Democratic Party is calling his campaign donors and asking them to give to a women’s advocacy group.
Young Democrats of North Carolina on Wednesday launched a campaign to raise money for NC Women United, a liberal-leaning group that advocates for public policies and laws relating to women’s health and social equality.
The Young Democrats were among the first groups to call for Democratic state Rep. Duane Hall to resign after a woman, two men and four anonymous sources quoted by NC Policy Watch accused Hall of sexual misconduct last week. Gov. Roy Cooper, the state Democratic Party and state Rep. Darren Jackson, the House minority leader, have called on Hall to resign.
Hall denies the allegations and has accused Policy Watch and its parent organization, the NC Justice Center, of having ulterior motives for publishing the allegations against him. Hall previously dated a woman who works at the Justice Center, which Policy Watch didn’t publicly disclose upon publishing its initial story.
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Ebony West, the first black woman elected as president of the Young Democrats, said the group wants to ensure that the party is a leader in speaking out against sexual harassment.
“We’re in the midst of a time where women and other individuals have reclaimed the narrative around sexual assault and harassment and are telling their stories,” West said. “Young Dems want to elevate these voices and narratives long gone untold or ignored, hold those accountable who have perpetrated toxic pervasive behaviors, and change our culture and systems.”
The Young Democrats say they support the “Me Too” movement and are maintaining a list of elected officials who have (and haven’t) called on Hall to resign.
“Let the members on this list who have not made a statement know that their silence may communicate a tacit endorsement of Hall’s harassment toward young women in our Party. That is not acceptable and we need their leadership and their voice on this issue,” the group posted on Facebook.
Young Dems spokeswoman Khaetlyn Grindell said the group “will be calling every single donor” to ask that they match what they gave to Hall with a donation to NC Women United.
State Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, added her name to the group of legislators calling on Hall to resign. Cunningham said sexual harassment has no place in the workforce. Another Mecklenburg Democrat, Chaz Beasley, doubled down on his previous statement about Hall.
Beasley said it’s wrong for Hall “to accuse people who are concerned about his behavior of being ‘far left’ or misinformed,” he said in a phone interview, referencing a statement Hall released Tuesday. “The best thing he can do is listen to the people who work with him and know him,” Beasley said.
Among Hall’s top donors are Chris Corchiani, a former N.C. State basketball player; Stephen Malik, owner of the North Carolina FC soccer club who’s trying to bring an MLS franchise to the Triangle; and Greg Hatem, founder of Empire Eats. In recent months but before the accusations against Hall emerged, Corchiani donated $1,000 to Hall, Malik donated $3,000 and Hatem donated $5,200.
Corchiani and Hatem didn’t immediately respond to emails from The News & Observer Wednesday morning.
Malik released a statement through an NCFC spokesman saying he isn’t withdrawing support for Hall, at least for now.
“I have a public record for supporting and investing in opportunities and equality for women, a cause for which I’ve demonstrated strong commitment,” Malik said. “Duane is a personal friend and while these allegations are disturbing I’m going to let due process take its course before evaluating support for him.”
The legislature’s Joint Legislative Democratic Women’s Caucus issued a statement Wednesday. The lawmakers in the caucus called for:
▪ Immediate mandatory ethics training for General Assembly members and staff focused on sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, gender bias and other forms of discrimination;
▪ Adoption of an “effective zero-tolerance policy” for sexual harassment, misconduct and discrimination;
▪ Formation of a system to report incidents of improper or unethical conduct to an independent, neutral third party.
The caucus asked that General Assembly leadership form a committee as soon as possible to implement the policy changes.
Ethics training already is required for freshman members of the General Assembly. There is no third-party reporting system.
“These acts should never be tolerated and always confronted,” the lawmakers’ statement says. “We, the Democratic Women of the North Carolina General Assembly, are committed to confronting the issue today.”