Here’s what happened and the key players involved in the NCGOP chairman bribery and corruption charges
The indictments of North Carolina’s Republican Party chairman and a top donor could hurt GOP candidates, including those in the 9th District’s special congressional election, two Republicans said Friday.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, called for Chairman Robin Hayes to step down now, not at the state convention in June.
GOP consultant Larry Shaheen called the indictment of Hayes an “albatross” around the necks of Republican candidates.
And Matthew Ridenhour said the indictments pose “an additional challenge” for him and the nine other Republicans running in the May 14 9th District primary.
Indictments unsealed this week charged Hayes, donor Greg Lindberg and two associates of conspiracy and bribery for allegedly attempting to influence N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
They’re accused of offering Causey $2 million in campaign contributions to favor one of Lindberg’s companies, including by removing an insurance department employee who regulates the firm.
The indictments come just a few weeks after state elections officials ordered a new election in the 9th District after hearing evidence of absentee ballot fraud by a man hired by Republican candidate Mark Harris, who appeared to lead Democrat Dan McCready on Election Day. Harris cited health reasons in explaining his decision not to run in the new election.
This week Hayes relinquished day-to-day management of the party. But on Friday, Republican Dan Bishop, running in the 9th District, said that wasn’t enough.
“While I’m stunned by these charges, Robin Hayes needs to resign immediately,” Bishop said in an email.
Chris Anglin, a GOP candidate often at odds with party officials, tweeted that “Republicans are starting to realize that changes need to be made @NCGOP. The corrupt and incompetent leadership needs to be replaced.”
In a statement, Mecklenburg County’s Young Republicans agreed.
“We must begin the process of . . . removing from leadership those who no longer deserve our trust based on the last year,” the group said. “A Supreme Court seat lost. A legislative super majority lost. An election invalidated. A Chairman now indicted. If it was not clear to all until this week, the NCGOP has a brand and operations problem that must be addressed.”
Ridenhour, a former Mecklenburg commissioner, said the indictments mean “A lot of folks are going to have concerns over the integrity of the party.”
“That said, I don’t think these allegations are reflective of any systemic problems throughout the GOP,” he said, adding that there are questions about Lindberg’s contributions to former Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, now the chair of the state Democratic Party.
Democratic strategist Thomas Mills said at some point the aggregation of scandal “becomes a critical mass that starts to stick.”
“As long as there’s just a drumbeat of scandal that’s all Republican, it’s likely to dampen enthusiasm and . . . (begin) to damage the brand,” he said.
Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant, said the damage so far seems confined to party headquarters.
“Neither party’s brand is very popular today,” he said. “The point is that in a campaign people are smart. They look at the candidates and say, ‘Who is the better choice?’ The brand has a general effect but not much.”
Other Republican candidates said they don’t think the charges against the state chairman will hurt them.
“No, this election will be about which Dan will best represent the values and beliefs of 9th District voters,” Bishop, a state senator, said. “I’m the right Dan to send to Congress. I will always tell folks where I stand on the issues.”
Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner, said he called for Hayes and other party officials to resign in December when he felt they were not supporting Harris. The indictments, he said, don’t “hurt me because the people who support me understand that I called them out early.”
Fern Shubert of Union County, a former state senator, said she advocated a change in party leadership years ago. She doesn’t believe this week’s indictments will hurt her campaign.
At least two candidates say it could force voters to look at them.
Leigh Brown, a real estate broker from Harrisburg, said the allegations reflect on the people involved, not on outsiders like her.
First-time candidate Stevie Rivenbark Hull of Fayetteville agreed. She said while the scandal may leave “a bad taste,” it’s just “further proof that we need to rid ourselves of back-door politics and old-boy politics in both parties.”