A new TV ad blasts N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds for upholding congressional districts that were later struck down by a federal court as racial gerrymanders.
The ad is funded by a shadowy left-leaning group called N.C. Families First. It says Edmunds, a Republican seeking re-election this year, “wrote the decision supporting his party’s discrimination.” It says the former 12th Congressional District is “called the snake” and was intended “to segregate African-American voters.”
On Friday, the N.C. Republican Party said the ad is “race-baiting” and features “highly racist language and material.”
“This racially charged and explosive ad has no place in our state,” NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes said in a news release. “I call upon the chairman of the Democratic Party to join me in denouncing this disgusting ad, and call upon members of the media to expose the dark money contributors who are trying to attach such a tainted falsehood to our state.”
The ad was not authorized by the N.C. Democratic Party or the campaign of Edmunds’ Democratic opponent, Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan.
According to IRS filings, N.C. Families First is a 527 tax-exempt group led by Sarah Boney, who owns a Raleigh-based pharmaceutical marketing firm. It’s also been running ad campaigns opposing Gov. Pat McCrory and several Republican legislative candidates.
In April, the group received $450,000 from the Democratic Governors Association, which has been supporting attorney general Roy Cooper’s campaign for governor. It also received $1.48 million from a group called N.C. Citizens for Protecting Our Schools. Those are the only two contributions to the group between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to IRS filings.
N.C. Citizens for Protecting Our Schools is a 501(c)(4) organization that’s not legally required to disclose its donors. Its tax filings list the same attorney as Families First – Michael Weisel – and indicates its mission is to educate the public about “the importance of adequately funding teacher compensation.”
Weisel said he could not provide any additional information about Citizens for Protecting Our Schools or its donors, but he defended the ad produced by N.C. Families First, calling it “totally accurate.”
“It is solely off the language in the court cases and editorials quoting the court cases,” Weisel said. “The ad is not making any statement about Justice Edmunds being racially biased.”
In the lawsuit challenging the congressional districts, the NAACP and others argued that the districts were racial gerrymanders designed to weaken the influence of black voters. The N.C. Supreme Court upheld the districts along party lines, concluding that although race was considered in the design of the districts, it was done so to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
The districts were redrawn this year to comply with a federal court order.
The ad campaign – and the Republicans’ response – indicate that race could be a factor in the election between Edmunds, who is white, and Morgan, who is black.
The NCGOP press release includes praise for Edmunds from Ada Fisher, a representative to the Republican National Committee and one of the state party’s most prominent African-American leaders.
“Justice Edmunds is an honorable man of integrity,” Fisher said. “Having Edmunds on on the North Carolina Supreme Court means that we will have a constitutional voice who will ensure that we have equal representation and equal voice for all.”
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield fired back at the NCGOP Friday afternoon with a statement released by the N.C. Democratic Party.
“Dallas Woodhouse and the Republicans are flat-out wrong and misleading in their characterizations,” Butterfield said. “The United States District Court – in two separate cases – effectively ruled that Justice Edmunds incorrectly applied the law by finding that gerrymandered districts were constitutional when in fact they were clearly unconstitutional. ... Justice Edmunds’ opinion aided the Republicans in their efforts to further disenfranchise African-American voters.”
Watch the N.C. Families First ad below: