Politics & Government

Race for N.C. Republican chairman 'just might be the dirtiest on record'

DURHAM — North Carolina Republicans will choose a new party chairman Saturday in a race that has turned into a bitter brawl marked by personal accusations, a lawsuit and the sort of high-powered campaigns usually reserved for races for governor or the U.S. Senate.

One candidate has been accused of being gay, and another has acknowledged an extramarital affair.

Bill Knight, Orange County's party chairman, called it "the most foul and corrupt campaign in my 48 years in politics." Frank Rouse of Emerald Isle, a former state chairman, said the contest "just might be the dirtiest on record." Marcus Kindley, one of the candidates, says simply, "It stinks."

The tactics have overshadowed an important race. Republicans are attempting to regroup after one of their most difficult elections in decades in November, one in which they lost races for governor, U.S. Senate and president. The chairman helps hone the party's message, recruit candidates, raise money, organize campaigns and get voters to the polls.

But as Democrats are providing targets, from a record-setting state budget crisis to investigations into cronyism, North Carolina Republicans have been knifing themselves.

That led former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, one of four candidates for the post, to remind a GOP luncheon in Durham on Tuesday that their opponents are in the other party.

"Too many Republicans are interested in knocking Republicans over," he said.

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