Elections

Liens, bankruptcies, assault: What a check of NC congressional candidate records found

Voters in a recent election. The primary is May 8.
Voters in a recent election. The primary is May 8. Staff Photographer

Two candidates face Internal Revenue Service liens. One filed two bankruptcies.

And one used two deadly weapons — his fists.

The Observer reviewed civil and criminal records for congressional candidates in North Carolina's 8th, 9th, 12th and 13th districts. Here are the findings. (Similar reports on legislative and local candidates will be published soon.)

Scott Huffman, D, 8th District

The district runs east from Cabarrus to Cumberland counties.

Records show he has an unpaid Internal Revenue Service lien for $11,902 dating from 2010. Huffman says the lien stems from a dispute with an associate in the Charlotte internet business he owns.

"I'm still working with the IRS to get it resolved," Huffman says.

Gabriel Ortiz, D, 12th District

The district includes most of Mecklenburg County.

Ortiz faces an IRS lien of $111,692 from last year. He says the problem began when accountants filed taxes related to the pool and backyard furniture businesses he and his wife own as personal income in 2015. Ortiz says he has reached a payment plan with the IRS and is filing a new return.

Gabriel Ortiz
Gabriel Ortiz Courtesy of Gabriel Ortiz

In 2007, Ortiz and his wife, Niury, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He says the couple faced medical bills in excess of $1 million after the birth of their quadruplets. The bankruptcy was eventually discharged.

"One of my platform issues is health care and making sure it's affordable to everyone so no one has to face bankruptcy for medical bills," Ortiz says.

Keith Young, D, 12th District

Young owes $11,000 in a 2009 judgment to an Asheville creditor, according to court records. He says he took out a loan to start a business just as the economy was falling into recession.

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Keith Young Courtesy of Keith Young

"I tried to keep up the loan note after the business closed, but like a lot of folks I experienced hardship and was out of work," he says. "I've always believed in taking chances early on in life so you'll have time to recover. Never be afraid of failure."

Young, a member of Asheville's city council, is running in the Mecklenburg County congressional district.

Carl Persson, R, 12th District

Persson has filed twice for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Persson, a Swedish immigrant who came to America in 1990, started a construction-related business that ended in 1994 when the construction industry slowed.

Carl Persson.jpg
Carl Persson Courtesy of Carl Persson

Later he opened a commodities business. It collapsed during the Great Recession, leading to a second bankruptcy. An effort to revive the business was short-lived. Now he delivers pizzas while focusing on his congressional campaign.

"I see a lot of things that are wrong and I just want to fix them," Persson says.

Paul Bonham, R, 12th District

Records show Bonham faced three allegations of domestic violence in the last seven years.

Two were in Gaston County, in 2011 and 2013, by one ex-wife. She won a temporary restraining order in 2011, though it's not clear how the 2013 case ended.
There was also a domestic violence allegation in Iredell County from another woman in 2014. That case was dismissed when the women didn't show up in court.
Bonham blames the accusations on custody battles over his children.

"That's what women do sometimes," he says. "They use the court system to not allow you to see your children… People make accusations in order to get custody and child support.”

Bonham says he was awarded custody of his children. In 1996 he was given probation after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. The weapon? According to Bonham, it was his hands.

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Paul Bonham Courtesy of Paul Bonham

He says the incident occurred when he went to pick up his kids from his in-laws, with whom he had a disagreement.

"I took the advice of my public defender and pled guilty to a crime I didn’t commit. I was attempting to protect my children," he said.

Bonham, a former teacher, says he was subsequently licensed by teaching boards in three states despite the guilty plea. He's now a solar energy consultant and runs support services for the homeless.

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @JimMorrill
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