Campaign FUD against Mike Nelson

I thought for a while about whether to post this, but I think people should know that fear and homophobia are unfortunately alive and well in Orange County. In his e-mail newsletter last week Orange County Commission candidate Mike Nelson wrote:

Apparently, a representative of the Orange County Democratic Party leadership attended a recent precinct meeting and told folks that a vote for me would be a "wasted" vote. His contention, apparently, was that if I win the primary it will make it easier for the Republican candidate to win in November.

[...]

The same arguments this gentleman made---that voting for me would be handing a seat to the Republicans because of the perceived anti-gay vote in Northern Orange--these same arguments used to be made about African-American and women candidates. If people had listened to this kind of doom-and-gloom mess 20-30-40 years ago, we'd never have elected African Americans or women to office around here.

I have to say I agree with Mike, and I'm upset that someone thinks we are ignorant enough to not elect someone because he's gay. It's even more surprising that this person was foolish enough to say so to other Democrats.

After watching some of last night's PTA candidate forum, I think Mike is probably one the most experienced and articulate people in the race. Not to mention he is a talented and effective campaigner. To doubt his campaign because he is gay seems to reflect political ignorance about this community and about Mike.

Although there will always be some bigotry here, I think Orange County voters are well above this kind of political cowardice.

* FUD = fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Issues: 

Total votes: 142

Comments

I think we (Democrats in Orange County) deserve to know who this person is. If Mike won't "out" him/her, then I suggest he/she do it themselves. This person will soon see how out of touch they are with OC and the OCDP at large.

Of course, a person who makes these statements is probably a coward at heart, a small person who fears the unknown, much less standing up for themselves.

Homophobia is unacceptable. I think the NC and Orange County Democrat leaders need to apologize publicly. I would like to encourage other candidates in the race for Orange County Commissioner to public denounce this and separate themselves it. If not they risk alienating a large base of voters right when they need them. Silence is not an option!

You know, I don't really care that much who it was (unless it's someone I know). I just want to see the community clearly articulate that this is not how we operate.

I think the voters of Orange County will make it pretty clear how they feel about this kind of tactic in two weeks when they overwhelmingly vote Mike onto the BOCC (de facto, I know it's just the primary.)

Ruby,
I couldn't disagree with you more. I want this person off the OCDP if they are an elected official. I just spent a lot of hours at the convention listening to great rhetoric, but now this is the action we get. B.S.

We can't claim to be the progressive segment of North Carolina when this type of person represents us. What next, do we elect them to the state Exec board? Do we want them representing the Democratic Party at the national convention, so they can sit around and share stories about "those type of people" with bigots from other states? I think not.

I haven't been particularly interested in this primary until I read this email. So, perhaps this will motivate folks like me, the usually consistent voters who just needed a kick in the pants. Maybe we should condemn this jerk, and then thank him or her for the GOTV efforts.

Public apologies, denouncements, and finger-pointing are NOT what Mike's campaign needs right now. His natural eloquence and obvious experience will go the distance.

Robert, as a member of the local party you have every right to be outraged. I'm not a member, so this just reinforces my determination to remain unaffiliated.

I think Joan raises a good point. People can get pretty complacent around here, and they often assume the best candidate will succeed by virtue of being smarter and better. It's good be reminded that elections don't win themselves. You have be vigilant, and you have to WORK for it.

Has anyone confirmed this? I don't doubt Mike's word that he was told this had happened, but could it possibly be that the source is not completely credible? That just seems like a really stupid thing for a member of the Democratic party leadership to say.

Anita,
Must you always be a voice of reason? : )

Good point. Perhaps someone who USED to be in a position of leadership, like from the 70s, said it. Hopefully, someone who was there will show up and confirm, and as far as I'm concerned, announce who it was.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke)

I misread this post at first: thought we were accused of SUPPORTING Mike because he's gay. Having got past that, I thoroughly agree with what Catherine said.

If this was indeed said, it is disgusting. But I also find the stereotyping of North Orange residents to be just as insulting. Being rural doesn't mean being closed minded.

Terri

Terri,
I assume you are referring to a different post? I see no mention of North Orange on this page, unless I am just missing it.

I always liked Mike because he was smart and handsome. I just considered the gay thing to be a perk.

When he was first running for mayor, I think I recall some snappy line from Mike about how people didn't care if he was gay, they cared if their trash got picked up. Seems on point here. Somebody said something that's trash and it got picked up. Off to the landfill with the FUD and on to issues.

Robert, it's in the original quotation. Mike cites "the perceived anti-gay vote in Northern Orange." I fund the assumption that northern Orange is so homophobic as to vote for a Republican over Mike to be pretty ridiculous.

Ruby,
Thanks. I guess I focused on the comments.

I will take my POV off OP and address it to the OCDP, of which I am a member. ASAP.

I am active in the Democratic Party and I have not heard such talk. I think it is fair to say that the OCDP is about as accepting of gay candidates as any other county party in NC.

I may or may not vote for Mike, but my vote will have nothing to do with his sexual orientation (either against it or for it, for that matter). It is simply irrelevant.

By the way, I live in northern Orange (Efland). If Mike doesn't do well up here (which I suspect he will not), it is because he is from southern Orange and liberal, not because he is gay, from what I can see.

I also think that if Mike wins in the primary, he, like the other 2 Democrats nominated (whoever they are) will have no problem winning in November.

I would be pretty disturbed if, as Paul stated "the OCDP is about as accepting of gay candidates as any other county party in NC." Don't you think Orange County can do better than most?

Anyway, I agree with Paul's third comment. Which is why I think the person who thinks being gay trumps being a Democrat (in Orange County) is just foolish.

Sorry, Ruby, what I meant to say is that the OCDP at least as accepting, if not more accepting, than any other county party. Consider that there are some pretty liberal county parties now in NC.

Bottom line: I never heard any anti-gay comments from any ODCP member. Period.

Paul-

Just out of curiosity, which candidates do you think are going to do well up there?

I also think, to be fair, Mike should reveal who this person is. At least he should inform County Chair Jack Sanders who it is, if he hasn't already.

Tom, I think that Barry Jacobs, Betty Tom Davidson and Fred Battle will be the three who win the 12 precincts in northern Orange.

Thanks Paul-

I'd tell you what I thought was going to happen down here but so little has been going on I really have no clue. I'm pretty sure Betty Tom won't get many votes in the area. Barry and Fred will do well but my guess is that Alice and Mike will be the top finishers in the southern part of the county.

The two endorsements that come out tomorrow could have a pretty big impact.

I also think Mike Nelson is going to do surprisingly well in northern Orange but we will see...

Paul,
Ditto on nearly everything. I have never heard anything anti-gay from OCDP and I don't want to start hearing it now. I think someone from the meeting should reveal who this person is to Jack and he should deal with it immediately.

As a supporter of OCDP I want this person gone because their underlying values don't fit with where I see our party going. The OCDP "leadership" are not kids. If someone is spouting this nonsense, they believe it in their heart of hearts.

Tom, I agree with you that Alice Gordon and Mike Nelson will lead in southern Orange, along with Barry Jacobs, IMHO.

I think this will be a very close primary election and that at least 5 of the candidates have a decent shot at it.

I will vote for Barry Jacobs, but beyond that, I'm open. This is a tough choice, we have some very good candidates to choose from.

I think that a lot of you in southern Orange are not aware how conservative northern Orange is compared to the county as a whole.

In 2004, I was the OCDP "coach" for the 12 precincts in northern Orange: Carr, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Efland, Tolars, Cheeks, West Hillsborough, Hillsborough, Grady Brown, Eno and St. Marys and spent hundreds of volunteer hours on the campaign, so I had my "ear to the ground."

Consider that the area I am talking about is not all of RURAL Orange, but it is what appears to be considered NORTHERN Orange, roughly the area north of I-85/40. Here are some facts:

This area casts only about a quarter of the county vote. In 2004, Kerry won 68% in the county as a whole, but only about 47% in northern Orange, a difference of 21%. The actual results on election day in northern Orange favored Bush 55%-45%, but early voting, while not as heavy or as heavily Democratic in this area as in the southern end, still tilted a bit Democratic, so I adjusted my estimate 2 points; county-wide there was an 8% swing to Bush on Election Day compared to early voting (Kerry got 60% county-wide on Election Day itself).

Consider that FEWER people voted on Election Day than had voted early (54% voted early) and that results were not broken down by precinct in the early voting, so some assumptions have to be made about sub-areas and individual precincts.

Jamie Daniel, the only GOP candidate for county commissioner, actually ran 2nd to Valerie Foushee in northern Orange, although Moses Carey was a close third. Ellie Kinnaird broke even at best, despite having a poor opponent. Bowles did a bit better than Kerry, but still lost.

This is despite the fact that half the voters are registered Democrats, and only about 30% GOP. The area is also about a quarter black, and considering that almost all blacks are Democrats and voted for Kerry, that means that white Democrats voted about 40-45% for Bush (assuming Indys went 2-1 for Bush). This is about the same as in NC as a whole, although much different than southern Orange, where the vast majority of white Democrats vote Democrat in the general election.

On the state level, the area went pretty strongly for the six veteran Democrat "Council of State" incumbents: Easley. Perdue, Cooper, Marshall, Moore and Long (who combined have won 16 statewide races without a loss). But GOP challengers for Ag Commissioner, State Auditor and Supt. of Public Instruction all won. David Price also won fairly handily, but consider he had a weak opponent.

More later.....

Orange County has voted for just one Republican candidate in a partisan race for any office of any kind since 1929. I suspect if the Democratic party nominated a dead person he/she would win.

(Jim Gardner for Congress in 1966, Hoover in 1928)

Gerry-

What was the deal with Jim Gardner in 1966? Why did folks vote for him here?

Sorry to hear that OC bought into the anti-Catholic fervor in 1928.

I don't agree with making voting decisions based on bigotry - it is indeed a sign of ignorance. Nor do I think it's appropriate to use sexual orientation as a means to gain votes. And, no, I am not implying that has been done now.
Could it be the concern was not about public views on homosexuality but on the perception of Carrboro? Let's face it, for better or worse, Carrboro (and Chapel Hill) are different environments from the rest of Orange County. We all are affected by issues across the county but serving in Carrboro's town government doesn't necessarily guarantee acceptance by all of OC. It probably doesn't even guaruntee support from all residents in Chapel Hill (or Carrboro) for that matter. I wonder if many people in Chapel Hill or in the rest of OC are really that familiar with what elected officials have said and done in Carrboro.
Anyway, I hope we as a county don't become preoccupied with this and, instead, focus on who will best serve Orange County as a commissioner.

Gerry-

When do you think the Orange County vote for Democrats became an affirmation of progressive policy instead of a refusal to vote for the party of Lincoln? Or has it always been this way?

I've no idea. I'm just curious -- the fact that OC fell for the anti-Catholic fervor of 1928 has me wondering if there are any parallels to this thread (even though, as everyone has said, Mike could be dead and still would probably beat anyone from the GOP).

These statements leave me with a lot more questions than answers. I guess I find myself being somewhat cynical about this topic based on my own Orange County political observations and experiences.

Mike Nelson is a very popular, 10+ year (seasoned), and successfully shrewd political veteran in Carrboro and Orange County. Why would Nelson broadcast such a statement to his supporters? Simply to inform or to excite his base?

During the 2004 NC House 50 primary, Bill Faison went to the press about the telephone polls that were conducted by SEANC on behalf of Barry Jacobs. The press reported and let Orange County voters draw their own conclusions. How responsible is it for a candidate to make such a claim without naming names or providing a source? Could Mike's own reaction be construed as equally disenfranchising towards voters as the items he reported hearing?

Giving Mike the benefit of the doubt, what Orange County Democrat “leader” would be so naïve as to actually believe a Republican could *ever* win a partisan race in Orange County today? In what alternate reality is this even a legitimate possibility?

Maybe everything Mike states is 100% true. Certainly folks are entitled to believe him regardless. I guess I would like to see candidate Nelson issue a press release explaining his statements and site some sources. Since Nelson has obviously chosen to make this an issue with his supporters, out of fairness, I think all Orange County voters deserve a little more information.

Amen Paul.

I guess the thought that this was phony never occurred to me. But, if it is, we need to know now. If it isn't, again, I need to know now who it was. All those who are unaffiliated can go on about your normal routine, but local Democrats MUST see this person resign from the leadership if such statements were made.

Why is this story two days old? Why don't we know whether or not this happened?

Paul F.-

Well, if you vote for Jacobs in our precinct (I don't think we've formally met; I'm the Republican precinct chairman for Efland), then it'll be him, you, and my dad at least...

I doubt he'll carry his home precinct though, at least in the primary (he didn't against Faison I'm pretty sure). However, I do think most of the Democrats selected in the primary will carry the precinct -- though I *think* Jamie won it last time.

Anyhow, I'd have to echo Paul Newton's statements that I'd be surprised if an OCDP official would really be that concerned about a rural (non-Carrboro/Chapel Hill) candidate winning a seat -- especially to the point of making statements like that.

Mike begins is statement: "Apparently, a representative of the Orange County Democratic Party leadership attended a recent precinct meeting and told folks that a vote for me would be a "wasted" vote." This implies that whoever spoke, spoke as a representative of the OCDP and not as a citizen expressing an opinion. The OCDP has no representatives speaking for it at precinct meetings, particularly about a contested Democrat primary race. So, isn't someone, no matter how misguided they might be about northern Orange, free to speculate about how voters decide whom to vote for? Couldn't a person actually learn from discussion whether such a position has merit or not? Isn't the Democratic party really about opening opportunities and learning from each other?
The quote says more about this man's opinion about northern Orange voters than it does about Mike. I daresay, in all of my time around OCDP volunteers no one has ever expressed anti-gay opinions, so the assertion of the statement is that voters in northern Orange, in general, might be homophobic. In addition, I would like to add that there is a very strong undercurrent of Helms-style conservatism in northern Orange, plus many religiously active voters may persuaded that the Bible considers homosexuality a sin. While Mr.Daniels may not attempt to motivate his base by publicizing Mike's sexual orientation, there are others who would.

Chris Cameron--I do know your father, he is part of the Efland Democratic precinct committee, I am Vice-Chair of the precinct. Glad to hear he is voting for Barry.

Barry will also get his wife Robin's vote too, so you should chalk up at least 4 in Efland!

Seriously, I think Barry will do well here in Efland and will be among the top three in northern Orange as a whole. He's been very attentive to this area and in general has been a great commissioner, IMHO.

Yes, he did lose to Faison here in Efland, but it was close and the dynamics of that race were much different. Plus, no candidate will spend a quarter million dollars in this race!

Mike begins his statement: "Apparently, a representative of the Orange County Democratic Party leadership attended a recent precinct meeting and told folks that a vote for me would be a "wasted" vote." This implies that whoever spoke, spoke as a representative of the OCDP and not as a citizen expressing an opinion. The OCDP had NO representatives speaking for it at precinct meetings, particularly about a contested Democrat primary race. So, isn't someone, no matter how misguided he might be about northern Orange, free to speculate about how voters decide whom to vote for? Couldn't a person actually learn from discussion whether such a position has merit or not? Isn't the Democratic party really about opening opportunities and learning from each other?
The quote says more about this man's opinion about northern Orange voters than it does about Mike. I daresay, in all of my time around OCDP volunteers no one has ever expressed anti-gay opinions, so the assertion of the statement is that voters in northern Orange, in general, might be a lot more homophobic than southern Orange voters. Historically, there has been a very strong undercurrent of Helms-style conservatism in northern Orange, plus many religiously active voters may be persuaded to vote against Mike because the Bible considers homosexuality a sin. While Mr.Daniels may not attempt to motivate his base by publicizing Mike's sexual orientation, there are others who would. Surely, this is no surprise.
If we assume that both incumbernts win in November, and continuing this speculation regarding a contest between Mr. Daniels and Mr. Nelson, it is my opinion that a commissioner's race polarized around sexual orientation favors Mr. Nelson. Mr. Nelson's southern base would be motivated and would overwhelm any potential northern bias against him. Therefore, a vote for Mike would not be "wasted".
I think the original "wasted" comment expressed at a precinct meeting hints that in the future Democrats will find it "less easy" to win county races. I think the 'no merger' campaign a couple of years back showed that it is possible to split the southern Orange 'liberal' vote, thereby emasculating southern Orange's voting clout. The new methods for selecting and electing commissioners will add to the possibility of accelerating a more conservative trend in Orange. Furthermore, it is my impression, and my impression only, that:
1. Conservative activism, backed by strong financial support is on the increase in the county.
2. The African-American Democrat vote in the county will decline and the Republican vote will increase.
3. More Republicans are moving into the county than in recent years.
4. Voters care more about property rights, property values, and taxes than anything else. These issues will be effectively pitched by conservatives.
5. Voting for a single candidate when the voter has the option to cast two or more votes, will become commonplace and alter many projections and, probably, outcomes in the county.
Ultimately, Orange Democrats will have to seriously strengthen their party if they want to win elections and have control over the future of the county. That means we'll need to listen tolerantly across the political spectrum, engage in real dialogue, work for the OCDP, and donate money to the party. Time will tell.

As I posted yesterday, if only the 12 precincts in northern Orange had voted in 2004, Jamie Daniel and not Moses Carey would be a commissioner. Also consider that Kerry only got 47% up here vs. 68% in the county as a whole.

This despite the fact that only about 30% of northern Orange voters are registered GOP and about 50% are Democrat. Not only that, registered Democrats voted in a higher % than GOP voters.

I do think this "Jessecrat" vote is waning, but as my friend Barry Katz posted above, more Republicans are moving in and unlike the Jessecrats, they won't be supporting moderate-conservative Dems like Easley, Perdue and Cooper, they'll be voting straight GOP.

But this won't effect the results in November much, I think it is safe to say that no Republican will even come close to winning in Orange County this year.

Chris Coletta asks:
"When do you think the Orange County vote for Democrats became an affirmation of progressive policy instead of a refusal to vote for the party of Lincoln? Or has it always been this way?
I've no idea. I'm just curious — the fact that OC fell for the anti-Catholic fervor of 1928 has me wondering if there are any parallels to this thread (even though, as everyone has said, Mike could be dead and still would probably beat anyone from the GOP). "

Tom Jensen asks:
"What was the deal with Jim Gardner in 1966? Why did folks vote for him here?
Sorry to hear that OC bought into the anti-Catholic fervor in 1928."

The Jim Gardner congressional victory in 1966 came 2 years before I got to Chapel Hill, he won by just a few hundred votes in Orange -- the Congressional elections in orange in 1964 and 1968 were the usual 2:1 D over R. Word on the street in 1968 was the vote for a Garnder was a vote against Democratic incumbent Harold Cooley, rather than a vote FOR Gardner. Why I don't know.

As for Hoover over Smith, your guess is as good as mine. Orange also voted against Democrat W.J. Bryan for President in 1900 and 1908 but by 56 votes in 1980 and 5 votes in 1900.

Otherwise, the 100% Democratic streak in Orange for President and Governor goes back to 1868 when the current D vs R competition started (Lincoln was not on the NC ballot), for US Senate it's unanimous since popular election began around 1918. For Congress, the abstracts I have go back only to 1910, Gardner in 1966 was the only GOP win there.

It will be interesting to see how voters in the recently annexed areas judge Mr. Nelson. Speaking for myself, it is difficult to put aside the unpleasant memories around the annexation process in favor of an objective evaluation of his potential performance as a commissioner. To some extent, it is probably valid to include his history in my evaluation.

Charlie Buckner, as someone who has not followed the Carrboro annexation debate, what are you impressions of Mike Nelson's handling of it? I'm just curious.

I'll do that, thanks.

The Orange County Democratic Party believes in equal rights for all and specifically in equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens. Mike Nelson's e-mail newsletter item that started this discussion was incorrect: comments made at a precinct meeting were made by a private individual, not a representative of the OCDP leadership. The OCDP disavows those comments and does not support their implications. The OCDP has high regard for the citizens of Orange County and is confident they will cast their votes based on an assessment of which candidates will best serve the interests of Orange County.
Jack Sanders, Chair
Orange County Democratic Party

Nice catch, Ruby !

I still think Mike Nelson should clarify for us what leadership position this person holds in the party. This is hanging out there and ALL OCDP leaders are "suspects" at this point. This may even "leak" into the "mainstream" media.

As someone who is active in the party (although not an officer), I feel that this charge has all of us "under a cloud," and this is not fair to those of us who have spent countless hours building the county party in the last couple years, including here in northern Orange.

Mike chose to put this issue out there, I think he has an obligation to at least tell us if this person is an officer or, if not, what it is about this person that makes him "a representative of the Orange County Democratic Party leadership."

Well I'm confused--what did the newsletter actually say?

I tried to access the newsletter to read it for myself and couldn't since I am not on that distribution list. Perhaps posting the comment here as it was originally written will clarify what was actually reported.

Are we are talking about a 'leader' with a little l versus a Leader with a capital L? That makes a huge difference as to meaning in my book. A prejudiced statement by someone generally recognized as a Democratic party Leader (big L) is extremely different than a statement by someone who might viewed as be a Democratic party leader (little l) simply because he or she is "active" in the party, but holds no official position.

I don't take Rush Limbaugh's statements as official Republican party stances, but I do consider Bush as a Republican party spokesman.

Anita, look at the top of the thread, Ruby posted part of Mike's email there.

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