A tiny percentage of North Carolina’s 6.2 million voters could tell you who David Parker is. An even smaller number give a whit about inside baseball at the state Democratic Party executive committee.
Yet the party’s sexual harassment scandal, and Parker’s self-centered decision to stay on as party chairman despite his role in it, are embarrassing the Democrats and threaten to hurt the very candidates Parker is supposed to help elect. By putting himself first and his party second, Parker thumbs his nose at his party’s top elected officials toward no good end.
It could cost the party a huge amount of money, and Democratic candidates thousands of votes.
Parker stayed on as Democratic Party chairman Saturday after assuring Walter Dalton, the party’s candidate for governor, that he would resign. Gov. Bev Perdue, the White House and several other high-ranking elected officials had also called for his resignation.
It would have been the right thing to do. The party’s executive director, Jay Parmley, resigned last month after details about sexual harassment allegations against him became public. A male staffer accused Parmley of a number of inappropriate advances, and was later fired. Parmley and Parker authorized paying the staffer a secret settlement and had him sign a non-disclosure agreement, while Parmley kept his job.
Parker hardly seemed bothered by the whole affair. “I honestly believe that this is and was a tempest in a teapot,” Parker said, according to WRAL.
Any party has problems when led by someone who thinks sexual harassment allegations, and the firing of the person who makes them, is no big deal. When that chairman goes back on his word after promising to resign, he breeds distrust within the party.
The upshot: Parker’s actions imperil the considerable national dollars that typically flow through the N.C. Democratic Party from the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and organizations devoted to President Obama’s reelection. The governors’ group, wary of the split within the party, might direct its money to some of the 11 other states with gubernatorial races this year. Obama’s campaign might put more resources elsewhere, or control them more closely in a way that hurts candidates down the ballot.
Speaking of money, the News & Observer reports that money might have been at the core of the executive committee’s vote to keep Parker as chairman. With a different chairman, local party activists might have lost out on more than $1 million in state tax dollars that Parker had promised to steer to them. The N&O obtained emails that suggested Parker would ensure district chairs, rather than top statewide candidates, got the money.
The typical voter rightly cares more about the economy and education than all this, and by November this episode may be a dim memory. But N.C. Democrats are in the news for all the wrong reasons these days – from the John Edwards trial to Amendment One’s passage to Gov. Bev Perdue’s indicted campaign supporters in court. They have a lot of work to do before Nov. 6, and their own chairman is no help.