Despite a day of almost non-stop rain, nearly 80 people gathered at the Bee Tree Fire Station in Swannanoa on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy last Saturday for a political fundraiser held by the Buncombe County Republican Party. Participants were invited to rappel down a 90-foot tower and donors were asked to contribute $100 per rappel.
According to party chairman Chad Nesbitt, who organized the event, the GOP “did it all for the victims of 9/11 and to defend America,” although a promotional video last week indicated that most of the money raised would go to “advertising in the media and a ‘guerilla’ marketing campaign to get the voters energized to vote.” The video also dictated that the party would donate a percentage of the money raised to Hunt the Cure, a nonprofit that raises money for research and sends children suffering from cancer on hunting and fishing trips.
While it’s unclear as to how much money was actually raised at the event (“No one has any money,” Nesbitt told Xpress on Saturday), the video and the associated event have drawn 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” 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.”
On Monday, Sept. 13, the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Executive Director Andrew Whalen also released his own statement criticizing the video and event, asserting that the state party “joins with Congressman Shuler in condemning this despicable video by Buncombe County Republican Party. … To use the anniversary of September 11th to raise money and divide Americans is a shameful act that no one should support.”
Not everyone lambasted Nesbitt, however. Former Republican Asheville City Councilman (and 2008 congressional candidate) Carl Mumpower, who participated in Saturday’s event, told Xpress that he thinks “Chad is 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.”
In this brief video, Xpress reporter Michael Muller caught up with Nesbitt on top of the rapelling tower, where he confirmed Mumpower’s victory. Nesbitt also agreed to sit down with Xpress to further discuss the event and the party’s campaign strategy. Look for the interview soon as part of our ongoing election coverage.
Video by Jake Frankel