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Sex, pols and text messages in the Hickory area

Sex, pols and text messages

During election season in the Hickory area, what goes around comes around, particularly when it comes to sex.

In 2010, just days before a vicious Republican district attorney primary went to the voters, challenger Shawn Clark was accused of having an affair with a client in 2009 and threatening his former secretary to keep the tryst quiet. Both women went to court less than a week before the primary seeking restraining orders against Clark.

The timing of the accusations clearly benefited incumbent Jay Gaither, who beat Clark by 224 votes out of 19,000 ballots cast.

Four years later – and two weeks before his primary runoff – Gaither finds himself entangled in his own scandal. The three-term district attorney, who serves Catawba, Burke and Caldwell counties, has been accused in great detail of sexually harassing one of his former prosecutors.

Whitney Nicole Shaffer, the daughter of the DA for Cleveland and Lincoln counties, filed suit Thursday, alleging that Gaither regularly propositioned her while she was employee of his office in 2013 and groped her at least once. As part of her lawsuit, which was filed after federal officials gave her the go-ahead this month to take her previous EEOC complaint before a jury, Shaffer included 35 pages of texts that allegedly passed between her and her former boss.

“I’ve laid hands on you and love the feel of your body,” one of them said. “I’m distracted at this point.”

In response to the lawsuit, Gaither said he had to fire Shaffer after learning that she had an affair with a married defense attorney in the area. He said the suit was a well-timed political attack. The married father of four faces a July 15 GOP runoff against David Learner.

Learner weighed in on Saturday, saying voters deserved answers from Gaither.

In her complaint, Shaffer, now a prosecutor in Henderson County, said she resigned in reaction to Gaither’s increasingly aggressive advances. She has accused Gaither of sexual harassment and defamation.

Once again, sex has pushed its way to the front of a law-and-order campaign in the Hickory area. Only the accused has changed.

Are voters distracted at this point? Michael Gordon

Tillis and Hagan dine together, sort of

Attorney Steve Hockfield had just arrived at the Charlotte City Club on Friday for a fundraiser for Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. Getting off the elevator, he was surprised to see people wearing name tags with the logo of her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis.

Turns out both candidates were there for simultaneous fundraising luncheons.

Separated only by a floor, they greeted supporters and introduced special guests. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was there for Hagan. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined the Tillis event.

Neither of the candidates themselves met. Said Tillis: “She apparently booked her fundraiser there after we did.” Jim Morrill

Cantor’s loss lifts McHenry

The Republican shuffling that followed Rep. Eric Cantor’s primary defeat in Virginia this month had a North Carolina beneficiary. U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry won the job as as chief deputy whip of the House GOP Conference.

McHenry, of east Lincoln County, was selected by Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican voted the next House majority whip.

In a statement, McHenry said he was “humbled and honored.”

“(Scalise) is a strong conservative leader for our conference, and I am excited for the opportunity to be part of his team,” he said. Jim Morrill

Eugenics deadline Monday

Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, wants to remind victims of North Carolina’s state-sponsored sterilization program that they have until Monday to file compensation claims with the victims’ compensation program.

Find claim forms at www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov. They must be sent to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Office, 1330 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1330. They have to be postmarked by Monday. Jim Morrill

Adams’ campaign manager killed in wreck

Kyle Gott, who managed Democrat Alma Adams’ successful primary campaign in the 12th Congressional District, died this month in a car accident in Kentucky.

Gott, 31, was visiting his family when the car he was driving was hit by a truck.

“I am thankful and honored to have worked with him; he was no doubt an extraordinary manager and a young man I admired,” Adams said in a statement. “I really loved that little guy like my own son and I will truly miss him. I will remain grateful for his contribution to my success, as I could not have asked for a better manager.”

Adams, who defeated a handful of Democrats, faces Republican Vince Coakley in November. Jim Morrill

Elections board reviews lawmaker spending

Auditors at the State Board of Elections have reviewed campaign finance reports filed by Rep. Michael Wray since 2004 and are awaiting more details from the Gaston Democrat on his campaign’s spending on meals, mileage and lodging, a board spokesman said this week.

Spokesman Josh Lawson said Wray’s campaign reports show expenses of more than $65,000 for fuel and mileage, $40,000 for meals and $5,700 for lodging since 2006.

“We are seeking clarification regarding numerous line-items within each category,” Lawson wrote in an email. Wray, who serves as his own campaign treasurer and is the deputy Democratic leader in the House, has told the board that he would provide more details, Lawson wrote. “Communication on this matter is ongoing, with the most recent exchange occurring last week.”

Attempts to reach Wray last week were unsuccessful. The conservative publication Carolina Journal reported Tuesday that Wray had owed more than $100,000 in back federal, state and local taxes, citing public records on file in Northampton and Halifax counties.

The same report quoted a Democratic strategist and Wray’s lawyer saying the debts had been paid. Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, the House Democratic leader, said Tuesday that Wray told him he paid the taxes.

State campaign finance laws allow candidate campaigns to use contributions for expenses resulting from campaigns or from holding public office, as well as for donations to charities and other political candidates or parties, and to pay penalties for violations of campaign finance laws. Candidates and elected officials cannot use campaign funds to pay personal expenses not related to the elected office or campaign. The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

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