Those stompin’ mad Republicans we reported on a few weeks ago are back, and this time they’re garnering headlines across the state.
It began with a campaign that touched a nerve. The Carolina Stompers is a group of Buncombe County conservatives led by Chad Nesbitt, stepson of Asheville’s Democratic state Sen. Martin Nesbitt. Nesbitt (the Stomper, not the senator) organized a protest last week against the state’s Democratic Party because of the name of its annual Vance-Aycock fundraising dinner. Former N.C. Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock, for whom the event was named, was — “progressive” politics aside — a white supremacist. His racist rhetoric helped incite a murderous riot by white mobs in Wilmington in 1898 that both terrorized local blacks and overthrew local democracy.
Dredging up the painful past must have caused some one in Raleigh to shudder, as the public response from the Dems was something to the effect of “good point.” State Treasurer Richard Moore, who plans to run for governor next year, is now urging the party to change the name of the dinner, the Raleigh News & Observer reported today. “I can no longer defend naming a Democratic Party dinner after Gov. Aycock,” Moore was quoted as saying. “The tactics Aycock embraced — fear, hatred, and voter intimidation at the hands of a band of ‘red shirts’ — must be acknowledged and repudiated.”
The Stompers have since trumpeted victory and cancelled their protest. Their Web site now features a congratulatory word from Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association (the same group that stirred some tensions last year with a radio ad that said Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.)
But that was just round one. Since the fracas over the dinner, Jerry Meek, chairman of the state Democratic Party, has put this pachyderm in the cross-hairs. Meek filed a campaign finance complaint Sept. 26 against the Carolina Stompers, prompting the state Board of Elections to investigate whether they should be registered as a political committee.
“Who’s supporting this group, and why aren’t they obeying the law like every other political organization has to?” Meek wanted to know. (He was quoted in this Asheville Citizen-Times story.) State law requires any group that supports political candidates and spends money to register as a political committee.
The group’s member rankings include “Super Stompers,” who pay $35 a year, “Ultra Stompers,” who pay $100 a year, and “Mega Stompers,” who pay a whopping $500 a year, according to the Carolina Stompers Web site.
The Stompers air their criticism of the Vance-Aycock dinner in this this YouTube video.
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor