This entire story started off as a somewhat-embarrassing personnel issue at the North Carolina Democratic Party HQ several months ago. Over the last few days, it has transformed into an internecine war — just as the national party prepares for its quadrennial festival in the state. After Governor Bev Perdue and several other Democratic elected officials belatedly demanded that state chair David Parker step down over the handling of the sexual harassment accusation, one might have expected Parker to go away quietly. Instead, Parker wants a party fight at their June 17th executive committee meeting:
The state Democratic Party chairman is defying the odds and refusing to resign under the weight of a political controversy involving allegations of sexual harassment and a secret settlement agreement with a former staffer.
In a letter Wednesday to the state’s party’s executive committee, David Parker said he has the “strong support” of the party’s executive council for his chairmanship.
“They have consulted with our party attorney and are clearly as satisfied as am I that there was no cover up and that the personnel matter was professionally and appropriately handled by the Party’s attorney using the highest ethical standards,” he wrote in the message.
He called for a June 17 referendum on his chairmanship at an executive committee meeting.
Yes, I’m certain that’s exactly what the DNC wants from its national-convention host state — a big fight and a vote over sexual harassment claims, just as the national media gets interested. Why not hold the convention in Cartagena, as long as the event will be going this far off message?
Perdue doubled down by reissuing her demand for Parker’s resignation, but if she was hoping to impress people with her sudden zeal, Perdue has missed the mark … badly. The Charlotte Observer editorial board called her response “a day late and a dollar short,” and describes her Scooby Doo approach to the scandal:
The public knew nothing about it until internal party emails (fretting about the fallout if the episode ever became public) were leaked to the Daily Caller and the (Raleigh) News & Observer. Only then did any Democrat’s ethics needle budge. Parmley resigned under pressure and just about every top elected Democrat called for Parker to follow him out the door. Wednesday night, Parker vowed to stay.
Perdue’s involvement, though, takes it to another level. When reporters asked the governor – the leading Democrat in the state – about it Tuesday, she repeated “this is an internal personnel matter” four times and refused to say when she first learned of the incident. When pressed, she told a reporter to “get over it.”
It appears Perdue “got over it” a little too easily and would have let Parmley and Parker stay on indefinitely if those pesky emails hadn’t leaked.
The editorial board isn’t so sure that this won’t have a lasting impact, either:
November is a long way off, and this all may be old news by then. Voters then will care more about jobs and education than they do about this scandal, and appropriately so. But this chapter and the way it was handled doesn’t speak well of the character of any of those involved.
As Politico reports, the national party isn’t so sure, either. They’re rushing to Charlotte to help push Parker out of his job:
National Democrats, attempting to head off an embarrassing story in their host convention state, are preparing to push out the embattled North Carolina Democratic Chairman in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal involving the state party’s former executive director.
“David Parker is a man without a party,” said a senior national party official of the North Carolina chair. “He’s operating out of a hotel in Raleigh outside of the party structure and without the support of staff, the national party or any significant party official or elected official. He’s isolated and that isolation will only increase until he makes the decision that is not in his best interest but in the best interest of the party. The status quo [is] untenable. He needs to step aside.”
Why the rush? Well, as long as Parker holds out, details like these will make headlines in North Carolina, a state Democrats desperately need to hold in November:
In a letter to Parmley dated Dec. 8, 2011, the junior staffer tells a very different story. He lays out specific behaviors he said constituted sexual harassment including:
- “The Executive Director often solicited my opinion on his clothes. He would point both hands to his crotch and ask me how his crotch looked in those pants”
- “the Executive Director would frequently pretend to punch my crotch and make a popping noise with his mouth”
- “the Executive Director frequently gave me unwanted shoulder rubs despite my verbal objections”
- “on July 28, 2011, the Executive Director discussed, in detail, his sexual activities”
There’s only one thing for Republicans to do in this situation: Pass the popcorn.