Under the Dome

NC Rep. Duane Hall is silent on calls to resign. Does he have a path to re-election?

State Rep. Duane Hall waits outside of Market Hall prior to former president Bill Clinton's arrival for a Hillary Clinton for North Carolina campaign event on March 7, 2016 in Raleigh. Hall hasn’t publicly responded the request of Democratic Party leaders that he resign after misconduct allegations surfaced on Feb. 28, 2018.
State Rep. Duane Hall waits outside of Market Hall prior to former president Bill Clinton's arrival for a Hillary Clinton for North Carolina campaign event on March 7, 2016 in Raleigh. Hall hasn’t publicly responded the request of Democratic Party leaders that he resign after misconduct allegations surfaced on Feb. 28, 2018. file photo

A day after reports of sexual misconduct emerged against state Rep. Duane Hall, he hasn’t said whether he’ll listen to calls from his party and the governor to step down.

Hall, a Raleigh Democrat, hasn’t publicly responded to calls for his resignation from Gov. Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Democratic Party and state Rep. Darren Jackson, the House minority leader.

They called for Hall to step down on Wednesday in response to reporting by NC Policy Watch, a news organization that is part of the liberal advocacy group the NC Justice Center. Policy Watch published a story in which five people – some of them anonymous – accused Hall of inappropriate conduct. One of the sources, Jessie White, also told The News & Observer that Hall behaved inappropriately to her on three occasions.

Policy Watch published a second story on Thursday in which two more people came forward with similar accusations.

Hall has denied the allegations. He told Policy Watch that he believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that he’s never sexually harassed any women in his time as a state legislator.

The story surfaced on the last day that candidates could file to run for a seat in the General Assembly. Hall had filed to run for re-election two weeks prior to publication of the story, on Feb. 12.

Hall hasn’t released a statement or responded to calls, texts or emails from The N&O.

The November elections are pivotal for North Carolina Democrats, who aim to gain influence in state politics. Republicans hold so many seats in the state House and state Senate that they can override the Cooper’s vetoes. The North Carolina Democratic Party has launched an effort to break the Republican supermajority.

State Rep. Duane Hall speaks to the crowd prior to former president Bill Clinton's remarks at a Hillary Clinton for North Carolina campaign event March 7, 2016 in Raleigh. Democrats called on Hall to resign on Feb. 28, 2018, over allegations of sexual harassment. Jill Knight jhknight@newsobserver.com

If Hall chooses to seek re-election, he would do so in one of the most left-leaning districts in North Carolina. House District 11, which covers southwestern Raleigh and parts of Cary, supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump by a 63-to-30 percent margin in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrat Deborah Ross got 61 percent of the district’s U.S. Senate vote in a losing effort that year. And voters supported Cooper over then-Gov. Pat McCrory by a 66-to-30 percent margin.

However, Hall would have to beat out two Democratic women in a primary before facing a Republican – either Tyler Brooks or Shawn Hamilton – and Libertarian Travis Groo in the general election.

“With the fact that his primary challengers are two women, and the energy level that is very apparent in the national electorate for another ‘year of the woman’ kind of cycle, this would probably (be) the greatest hurdle he would have to securing a re-election bid,” Michael Bitzer, professor of politics at Catawba College in Salisbury, said in an email.

The Democrats

Hall’s primary challengers are Allison Dahle of Raleigh and Heather Metour of Cary. Both filed to run on the same day allegations against Hall surfaced. Dahle didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on her background and platform.

Metour said in an interview Wednesday night that her decision to run for the seat “had nothing to do” with Hall. She said she “very much wanted to stay out of the public eye,” but that the teenagers who survived the shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month inspired her to run.

“My kids have been doing code red drills since they entered school. With the ‘Never Again movement,’ those kids are so inspiring to me,” Metour said. She said she’s between jobs as a talent acquisition professional.

Metour was mentioned often in the murder trial of Brad Cooper, a Cary man convicted of killing his wife. Though Metour did not testify at the 2011 trial, Cooper acknowledged having an extramarital affair with her as his marriage was falling apart.

“I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a long time,” she continued. “With the legislature being primarily dominated by men who seem to be failing at adulting, and with the Me Too movement inspiring me, I said ‘enough is enough.’”

The Republicans and Libertarian

Brooks, one Republican in the race, is an attorney for a local branch of the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public interest group. He’ll square off against Hamilton in the Republican primary on May 8.

Brooks said he’s running because he sees an opportunity for the district’s representative to be more responsive. He hopes to prioritize education, infrastructure planning and criminal justice reform.

“There are so many antiquated laws that end up criminalizing the poor,” Brooks said.

On Friday, he issued a statement saying that Hall should resign “should any of these allegations be true.” Hamilton, a self-employed IT expert from Cary, echoed that sentiment in an interview Friday.

“If the allegations are true ... he definitely doesn’t want that above his head in an election year,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he filed to run because he’s an Air Force veteran who wants to continue serving. He said he’s “willing to listen to both sides” on solutions. He thinks taxes are too high and noted that, in the six or seven years between the time he moved away from North Carolina and moved back, “nothing has improved” on Interstate 40.

Groo, the Libertarian, works as a driver trainer for Old Dominion Freight Line. Like Brooks, this is his first campaign for elected office. Groo pointed to the 2016 presidential election as proof that voters are “disillusioned” by both the Republican and Democratic parties.

He criticized the parties for their spending.

“I want a government so small you can barely see it,” Groo said, invoking U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. He said he doesn’t plan to attack Hall over the allegations. “I don’t want to slam someone’s character that I don’t know personally.”

‘Entirely conceivable that he could win’

Even though Hall faces misconduct allegations, his opponents may face an uphill battle.

Hall’s campaign entered the year with $200,000 on-hand for the coming election and – while he may not enjoy broad name recognition – his three terms in office may give him an advantage, said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University.

Voters may also forgive him. While a national Public Policy Polling poll found that most Americans support the “Me Too” movement and think President Donald Trump should resign because he faces sexual harassment allegations, localized polls conducted by PPP and the Star Tribune in Minnesota found that a majority of Minnesota voters didn’t think U.S. Sen. Al Franken should resign amid harassment allegations against him.

Taylor said Hall’s opponents “have no political pedigree and, presumably, the Democratic candidates might split the anti-Hall vote,” Taylor said. “In a Democratic district, with a Democratic tide, it’s entirely conceivable that he could win.”

Taylor noted one other possibility. If Hall wins the primary and then drops out, the Wake County Democratic Party can appoint his replacement on the ballot.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht