Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group known for its anti-tax positions, has sent a pair of direct mail "voter education" piece and fielded a robocall to help Rep. Marcus Brandon, a progressive Democrat from High Point.
Yeah, we were scratching our heads about this too.
Dallas Woodhouse, state director for the group, said Brandon is the only legislative candidate for whom the group is doing "voter education." The nonprofit isn't allowed to endorse candidates or campaign on their behalf, but they are allowed to send glowing reports on lawmakers' activities right around the time an election is going on.
Brandon, a freshman lawmaker, faces former Rep. Earl Jones, who he unseated two years ago, in the May 8 primary. No Republican has filed to run in the race.
"It's always better to have friends than have enemies," Woodhouse said when asked why his group had taken an interest in Brandon. The calls, he said, went out Thursday. The direct mail pieces should hit mailboxes today and then again Saturday or Monday.
While AFP is a conservative group, it cares about issues, he said. And on education, Woodhouse said Brandon worked toward education tax credits for special needs students and expanding the number of charter schools allowed in the state, two items that AFP supported.
Brandon said he was taken aback by the group's support. When reached Friday, he said he was unaware of the fliers or the robocall.
"I don't know what to say about that. It is a shocker," Brandon said, audibly surprised by the news. "I have no idea of what they're doing or anything about it."
Brandon acknowledged that he shared the view that education in North Carolina needed reform. But he said he differed greatly with AFP on many issues, particularly education funding.
In addition to being surprising, Brandon acknowledged that the ads may not help his cause in some circles. He took some political heat from fellow Democrats during last year's legislative session for working with Republicans on the charter school issue. And one of Jones' central issues has been that Brandon is too cozy with Republicans.
Updated: "It's understandable because he has supported the Republican agenda more than the average Republican down there," Jones said late Friday. "He's been in step with them all the way, and sometimes leading the way. That's why they (Republicans) didn't run anybody in the general election. They felt they couldn't get better than that."
Woodhouse said that he thought about the accusation that Brandon was "a Republican in a Democrat's clothes" and whether AFP's support would reinforce that idea. But, Woodhouse said, he decided to make the ads anyway.
"For me to believe that it would be harmful to him, I would have to buy into a narrower view of what people care about," Woodhouse said. "Ultimately, I think voters are pretty intelligent and care about results."