Until Tuesday, the 36-foot-long Fleetwood RV was painted white and parked at Charlotte Motor Speedway to serve as a hang-out for NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and a half-dozen other drivers.
Now its JIMs Bus, a fire-engine-red traveling billboard that will carry Republican Jim Pendergraph through neighborhoods of the 9th Congressional District, where the Mecklenburg County commissioner and former sheriff is locked in a July 17 runoff with former state Sen. Robert Pittenger.
Unveiling his bus and new strategy Thursday, Pendergraph told reporters and about 30 supporters that his campaign and the RV he dubs the Old School Conservative were hitting the road right away.
Voters have a choice on July 17th, he said. A choice about who they trust to represent them and their families. My opponent spent the third most money of any congressional candidate in the country during the primary, attacking me with one lie after another.
Well Mr. Pittenger, today is a new day. Today the voters will get the facts and truth the real story.
Pendergraphs campaign will post the RVs schedule on Twitter using the hashtag #JIMsbus. Hell ask voters to sign his bus.
To the idea of a bus rolling through the district, Pittenger emailed: Funny. Neighbors would prefer the ice cream truck.
The runoff winner will likely be the favorite in the November election against Democrat Jennifer Roberts, a Mecklenburg County commissioner. Republicans have held the district since 1953.
Feuding between Pendergraph and Pittenger dominated a 10-candidate field before the May 8 primary. Pittenger led the field, gathering about 33 percent of the vote, to runner-up Pendergraphs 25 percent. Neither got the requisite 40 percent to win the primary outright.
Since then, the race has hit a lull, but is sure to heat up now that JIMs BUS is on the road.
Pendergraph said hes tried to run a gentlemans campaign, but Pittenger spent more than $1 million of his own money to spread lies about me.
Yet as the primary race wore on, Pendergraph started to hit back, and Thursday he revved the race again, handing out a mailer that labels Pittenger another millionaire politician.
He said Pittenger, as a state senator, voted against funding for police and teachers and he voted to raise taxes that hurt small business and even opposed capping the gas tax.
Pittenger, he said, touts his Republican Party purity, but notes that Pittengers wife, Suzanne Bahakel Pittenger, donated to Democrat John Edwards U.S. Senate and presidential campaigns.
In a brief interview, Pittenger said Pendergraph is a desperate candidate, spreading wanton comments.
He sounds like a guy whos losing. Its just a very desperate attempt to create something purely on false testimony.
Pittenger, a real estate investor, said hed never voted against police and teachers. I voted against (former Gov. Mike) Easleys budgets that included major tax increases, he said. They included funding for police and teachers. But its twisted to say Id ever vote against them.
As to Pittenger being a millionaire politician, Pittenger wondered whether Pendergraph doesnt like Mitt Romney, too.
He acknowledged his wife donated to Edwards because when he first ran he told her he was a conservative Democrat. When she concluded he wasnt, she asked the Edwards campaign for her money back.
Pittenger said they sent it.