Politics & Government

Legal issues have dogged some 9th District candidates; one even sued a president

One candidate sought a restraining order against a woman with whom he’d had an extramarital relationship.

One was arrested for drunk driving.

And another sued a sitting president for racketeering.

Those are among the findings from background checks of candidates running in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

The Observer looked at civil, criminal and voting records for the candidates running in the 9th District. Some had speeding or minor traffic violations. Some were involved in lawsuits in their official roles.

The seat has been vacant since January, the end of incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger’s term. State election officials ordered a new election after hearing evidence of absentee ballot fraud in February. Ten Republicans, one Democrat, one Libertarian and one candidate from the Green Party are running.

The Republican primary is May 14.

Stony Rushing, R

The Union County commissioner doesn’t have any criminal history. He filed two restraining orders against fellow Union official Tracy Wesolek in December 2015. Wesolek, now a Waxhaw commissioner, declined to comment, but attorney John Snyder — a Republican and former Union County district attorney who represented her — said the restraining orders originated from an extramarital relationship the two previously had.

Rushing filed for restraining orders against Wesolek on behalf of himself and his minor daughter. According to court filings, he alleged that Wesolek had been told to stop contacting him in August 2014, but had persisted, and had told his relatives she was suicidal. She had also made “ugly references” to his daughter, according to court filings. A judge granted an emergency order barring Wesolek from contacting Rushing or his daughter, or being near them.

At a January 2016 hearing, however, a judge found that Rushing had failed to prove there were grounds for a permanent no-contact order, and dismissed the case. Snyder said that under cross examination, Rushing couldn’t provide evidence to back up his assertions.

“I said, ‘You guys obviously had a relationship outside your marriage’,” said Snyder. “He said yes.”

“I said, ‘You contend that your daughter is harmed by my client, but you don’t have any documentation where my client has threatened or in any way caused harm to your daughter,” said Snyder. “That was it.”

Rushing told the Observer that he didn’t know he would need witnesses to call in court, and wasn’t able to enter the evidence he had brought to the hearing.

“I just took the information I had, and John wouldn’t allow me to introduce the evidence because the witness wasn’t there,” said Rushing. “I didn’t realize we had to have witnesses and everything else.”

He said his relationship with Wesolek had been over for a while, and that he just wanted her to stop contacting his family.

“This was years after I told the lady to leave me alone and stop having contact with me,” Rushing said. “This was to protect my minor child. It was not to protect me.”

Snyder said that the no-contact orders Rushing sought could have had a serious impact on Wesolek’s life if the judge had issued them on a permanent basis.

“If you are trying to get any sort of job or volunteer with any youth organization, if they do a background check, it’s going to come up,” said Snyder. “You’re campaigning as a Republican in 2019. One of the things you’re obviously saying is you believe in judicial restraint and courts not overreaching their powers, and here you’ve got someone using courts in an inappropriate way.”

Chris Anglin, R

Anglin, 33, once pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing and DWI charges.

When Anglin ran for the Supreme Court last year, the News & Observer reported that both offenses occurred a decade ago.

He pleaded guilty to the DWI in 2009 after an arrest for driving with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. Later that year he was charged with attempted breaking and entering, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree trespassing. Anglin told the N&O that he’d been “incredibly intoxicated“ after a party and tried to enter the wrong apartment in Greensboro.

“All this happened approximately a decade ago,” Anglin told the Observer. “It no longer reflects who I am as a candidate or a person. The legal issues were alcohol-related and I have since gotten control of the issue.”

Anglin said the experience gives him insight into problem of opioid and substance addiction.

Last year Anglin made news when he successfully sued Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and other GOP leaders over a law that would have prevented him from running for the court as a Republican.

In August a judge threw out the law, allowing Anglin to run under the Republican label. He had been a Democrat until shortly before filing. Republicans called his switch a “dirty trick.”

Records show Anglin, a former Democrat, has voted only three times since 2012, never in a primary. He said he was registered in Florida before 2012.

“I have not voted in any Democratic primaries and like many young people, was not politically active in my twenties,” he said.

Gary Dunn, R

Dunn, 65, has been involved in two legal cases involving health care — including his suit against a former president.

In 2014 Dunn sued then-President Barack Obama for racketeering. Acting as his own lawyer, he claimed that the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was a “scam” that relied on “threats” and “intimidation,” thus violating the so-called RICO statutes.

He asked for $138,160.80 in judgment and damages. The suit never went anywhere.

“Of course not. You can’t sue a sitting president,” Dunn said, adding that he was simply making a statement.

“You have to have your opinions known,” he said.

When Dunn, who lives in Matthews, ran for mayor of Charlotte as a Democrat in 2013, the Observer reported an outstanding judgment for $5,000 he owed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority. With interest, that’s grown to $10,103, according to court records.

Dunn has said the case arose from a visit to a Myers Park clinic for treatment of a medical condition. He claimed it was a “free clinic.” A hospital spokesman has said such clinics charge on a sliding scale. The hospital, now known as Atrium, obtained a $5,000 judgment in 2008.

Asked about the unpaid judgment, Dunn told the Observer, “That’s still out there? I don’t know what they’re doing.”

Stevie Rivenbark Hull, R

Record show Hull, who is campaigning under the name Rivenbark, has not voted in a primary since 2008, and only in five general elections. Rivenbark, 32, said she lived out-of-state for a time after college. She now lives in Fayetteville.

“Voting activity is highly dependent upon the candidates one has to choose from,” she said in an email. “Hence one of my reasons for running: improving voter engagement of a largely isolated demographic.”

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