Under the Dome

Democratic state Senate candidate Hankins gave to Republicans in ’90s

Ellis Hankins, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for state Senate in District 16, confirmed Friday that he made contributions to more than a dozen Republican candidates two decades ago.

His sole challenger in the primary, Jay Chaudhuri, has sent campaign mailers publicizing those donations.

“Ellis Hankins has a long record of supporting right-wing Republicans,” the mailer reads. “He’s even contributed to Virginia Foxx, who’s gone on to lead the charge in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

Hankins responded with a “voter alert” on his website and an email blast confirming that he made contributions to a number of Republican and Democratic state senators and representatives in 1995 at the request of a former law partner.

Hankins was an attorney with McNair & Sanford, a law firm with offices in both Carolinas, in 1994 and 1995, according to his LinkedIn account. The North Carolina senior partner was Terry Sanford, a Democrat who was a former governor, U.S. senator, presidential candidate and president of Duke University.

State Board of Elections finance reports show that Hankins gave between $100 and $200 to various Republican candidates in 1995 and 1996.

Hankins said in an interview that Republicans had taken over the General Assembly in 1994, and he was asked to make small contributions to some Republicans to improve relationships.

“I reluctantly made some of those, and it was 21 years ago,” he said.

Hankins criticized Chaudhuri for bringing up the issue. “We should be focused on issues that matter to people and their qualifications to serve,” he said.

On his website, Hankins added that Chaudhuri left one of Hankins’ Republican beneficiaries off the list — Art Pope, who had served in the state House.

Hankins called out Chaudhuri for resorting to “negative attacks,” saying they had a gentleman’s agreement to run clean campaigns.

Chaudhuri’s campaign manager, Dave Miranda, said Chaudhuri “has never contributed money to right-wing Republicans like Virginia Foxx and Art Pope.”

Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf