It was a bad week for the Buncombe County Republican Party.
In an online post, Xpress reported that "Rappelling 9/11 Fundraiser Creates Fallout for GOP." At the event, participants were invited to rappel down a 90-foot tower at the Bee Tree Fire Station and donors were asked to contribute $100 per rappel to raise money for the party and a local nonprofit.
According to the article, the fundraiser and a video used to promote it that decried "socialistic terrorism" drew harsh criticism from a range of Democratic officials and some Republicans, including Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler and Republican challenger Jeff Miller. In a statement, Shuler called the event “one of the worst displays of politics” he’s ever seen. And in response, Miller released a statement agreeing that “no one should play politics with this tragic day. … It is not a time for politics.”
Not everyone lambasted the event and its organizer, BCGOP chairman Chad Nesbitt, however.
Carl Mumpower, who participated in the event, told Xpress that he thinks “Chad is a creative, well-intended and courageous GOP County Chair.”
Mumpower also went on to boast that he beat Nesbitt in a push-up contest at the event.
“His push-up capacities are limited, and he let a 57-year-old beat him,” Mumpower joked. “We considered having a contest with some of our community’s liberal politicians, but then Chad and I remembered that progressives can’t do push-ups."
While it’s unclear as to how much money was actually raised at the event (“No one has any money,” Nesbitt told Xpress), the party responded to the criticism by asserting in a press release that it took "special delight in our Saturday event and will repeat the effort next year."
Nesbitt and the GOP also caught heat last week for raising questions about the legality of an early voting location near Shuler's downtown Asheville congressional office (the questions were found to be based on faulty information).
In the online post "Board of Elections: GOP Concerns Over Legality of Early Voting Site Were Baseless," Xpress reported that the board held two emergency sessions last week to deal with assertions by the party that a sign on Shuler's office door could constitute a "political advertisement" that violated the required minimum 25-foot buffer between campaign activities and voting sites. Despite repeated claims by the GOP that the doors were only 18 feet apart, however, the board measured them at 25 feet, declaring the concerns moot.
Asked at the Sept. 16 meeting where the shorter, alleged measurement came from, Nesbitt said “we were told it was within 18 feet.”
“But you didn’t do your own due diligence?” he was asked.
“No, that’s just what we were told,” Nesbitt admitted.
In other potentially embarrassing news for the GOP, Xpress reported in an online post that "Councilman Bill Russell Leaves the Republican Party."
While the Asheville City councilman didn't directly cite Nesbitt or either of the recent incidents propelled by the county party in his decision, he told Xpress that "it seems to me that some people are doing things to promote themselves over the party’s candidates and they’re not bringing people together … none of that does anything to help the party, the process, or the community in which we all live.”
"I’m much more of an independent than what a Republican seems to be defined as these days,” he explained. "I want to serve Asheville as effectively as I can and I don’t want to have any part of these political games.”