Both too much and too little is being made of the April Surprise at N.C. Democratic Party headquarters.
Leaked emails between state party officials depict a dysfunctional organization with insolent employees, a sexually harassing senior official and leadership that holds no one accountable. The partys executive director took the fall on Sunday, and perhaps deservedly so, but that should hardly be the end of the matter.
Watt Jones, a member of the partys executive committee and a candidate for the N.C. House, complained last month to the partys communications director, Walton Robinson, about news clipping summaries the party emailed to supporters. Jones, a former small-town police chief, felt that Bill Faison, a Democratic candidate for governor, was not being given the attention he deserved.
Robinson emailed back a venom-filled response. He labeled something Jones had said as pathetic and xenophobic and summarily dismissed Jones concerns.
This irritated Jones and set off a flurry of emails among party officials, including one in which party chairman David Parker defends Robinson. The emails culminate with Jones dropping this bombshell: Harassment allegations at party headquarters were being covered up with a financial settlement and a non-disclosure statement. The story went that a male low-level staffer was fired after making the allegations and that the perpetrator was still in his role in party leadership.
If this hits the media the Democratic Party, our Candidates, and our credibility are doomed in this election, Jones wrote to Parker. You need to clean this mess up before it gets worse.
Three more weeks passed. The partys executive director, Jay Parmley, resigned Sunday, only after the (Raleigh) News & Observer obtained the emails and reported on them.
The party has been secretive, so many questions remain unanswered. But this much is clear to us:
• Some might dismiss this as intra-party bickering, except too little is being made of the most egregious allegation: That a whistle-blower may have been fired for reporting that he had been sexually harassed.
• Parmley, the departed executive director, deceives himself. In his resignation letter, Parmley said he was the victim of a smear campaign by right-wing political enemies spreading a false and misleading story. Um, Mr. Parmley, the emails containing the allegations solely involve Democrats, and it was the less-than-right-wing News & Observer obtaining the emails that prompted your resignation.
• Parmley impugns a lot of good people when he says sexual harassment is unconscionable and In fact, fighting against actions like these is one of the reasons why I am a Democrat. Since Republicans, yknow, are serial sexual harassers, or abet them.
• Jones worries that the whole mess casts Democrats and marriage-amendment opponents in a bad light. No doubt it does. But thats making too much of this. The probability that the state Democratic Party had inferior leadership says little about any individual candidate and nothing about the folly of the marriage amendment. The party needs to clean its house, but the hundreds of Democratic candidates running across the state cannot fairly be smeared with the same dirt.
Parmley has resigned, but numerous questions linger and many in the party dont have faith in Parker, the party chairman. If he cant immediately give Democrats more satisfying answers than he has so far, he should go, too.