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N.C. Opinions: Raleigh

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Chairman makes sideshow of N.C. Democratic Party

From an editorial Wednesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

No offense to the people who are active in the N.C. Democratic Party, but when they put Randy Voller in as party chairman, did anyone check to see whether he is a Democrat?

We know he was a four-time mayor of Pittsboro and chairman of the Chatham County Democrats. But we also know his biggest fans these days are Republicans. Voller’s misstatements, missteps and tax troubles have taken attention away from GOP stumbles and diminished Democrats.

Republicans couldn’t have put a better man in the job if they had chosen the Democratic chairman themselves.

Voller was barely in the job in February when the AP revealed he has $286,000 in liens filed against him by the state and the IRS for back taxes and penalties. Voller said the debt arose from slow sales in his family’s development business during the downturn and that he’s paying it back.

Well, OK. Then he replaced the party’s interim executive director with himself and hired a friend, Jim Neal, as a fundraising consultant at $7,000 a month.

Um, OK. Then Voller drew attention by saying GOP policies were “raping” the state. He apologized for his word choice.

Uh ... OK. Now the AP reports that in March Voller took a trip with Neal to Las Vegas during which Voller ran up $3,327 on an American Express card embossed with his name and the N.C. Democratic Party. He says he didn’t know the card was backed by the personal credit of predecessor Tammy Brunner. He’s paid off the balance in full with his personal funds.

OK, this should not be OK. The Democratic Party is entitled to run itself any way it wants. But it has a responsibility to offer a respectable and credible alternative to the Republicans. Right now, it’s offering a sideshow. Voller is providing the follies, but it’s the state’s senior Democrats who are to blame.

With Republicans in control of state government, top Democrats seem content to stand by and let the GOP lose its appeal to voters by overreaching.

If Democrats are sincere about their principles, playing the spectator isn’t an option, particularly when many of the party’s traditional supporters could be hard hit by Republican-backed changes in spending and taxes.

The state Democratic Party shouldn’t be adrift. It should be engaged. For that, its leadership must be effective, responsible and not Randy Voller.

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