Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, either committed a campaign fumble or made one of the best "Hail Mary" plays in all of politics.
While it's not unusual for a campaign website to feature endorsements, Pittman's endorsement page quoted six individuals, all of who share names with retired Dallas Cowboys players.
"Last year was the most effective session of the general assembly in over 100 years in the State of North Carolina. Don't let the Liberals win, and please let me know how I can help," is a quote attributed to Daryl Johnston.
While Pittman's website says Johnston is from "Southwestern Cabarrus County," he shares a name spelled exactly the same as an NFL analyst who played for a decade as a fullback for the Cowboys. Johnston, the football player, lives in Dallas.
The website also quoted Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland and Brock Marion – all former Cowboys players. Perhaps most telling, "Troy A." lauded Pittman as a "true professional. North Carolina is on the clock, and time is running out. Larry is going to get the ball down the field in time to win the game, because he has to, and nobody else will."
Troy Aikman was a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Cowboys.
Pittman's Facebook page lists the Cowboys as a sports team of interest to the lawmaker, and he has used his Facebook profile to comment on a photo of tight end Jason Witten – "My man Jason. What a great player!" – although Witten is not among Pittman's endorsements.
The endorsements were removed from the site Monday afternoon. Earlier, they occupied a page on his website and cycled one by one to the front page of the site.
It's unclear whether the endorsements were left over from a test version of the site, meant as a humorous nod to Pittman's favorite football team, or were a straightforward attempt to puff up the candidate. However, the rest of the website features standard campaign fare such as pictures of the candidate, video of a floor speech, biographical information and contact information.
Pittman did not immediately return calls Monday to his home phone number, which is also listed on his campaign website, or his legislative office.
No voters with the names Troy A., Daryl Johnston, Brock Marion, Russell Maryland or Darren Woodson are registered to vote in Cabarrus County. There are several voters named "Kevin Williams," but it is unlikely that they are the football player either because the middle names don't match or because they are listed as a different race from the football player.
A news release by For Liberty Communications says that Pittman's website launched on March 2 and "includes our custom content management system allowing the user to have more control over key areas of their website such as the news, issues and photos."
Pittman is the incumbent for House District 82. He has a primary against Leigh Thomas Brown of Harrisburg. The winner will face a Democrat in the fall. Pittman is best known for his strident stance on firearms legislation as well as a tussle with House Speaker Thom Tillis.
As of 5:20 p.m. on Monday, Pittman has still not responded to WRAL's phone calls, but posted the following on his Facebook page:
"Some of my opponents are showing their lack of character by trying to sabotage my website, and by running a twitter account in my name to try to discredit me. I do not have a twitter account at all, and do not intend to have one. So any twitter account that you see bearing my name or image is a malicious attempt to discredit me. Someone is also posting endorsements on my website without my knowledge, posing as other people, such as NFL players, in an effort to make it look like I am faking endorsements. We are trying to get to the bottom of this, and have a pretty good idea who is doing it. This kind of hatred and disgraceful conduct from such people confirms that I am doing something right."