The North Carolina Republican Party has issued a formal apology to former Rep. Jimmy Love, Sr., D-Lee, for an untrue campaign mailer that may have tipped the 2010 election toward his opponent, current Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee.
The mailer, paid for and sent out by the NCGOP Executive Committee just before the November election, said Love had abused his office to make a “sweetheart deal” to sell some land he owned to the DOT, “pocketing your money!”
“I love getting’ rich off the taxpayers!” Love appears to say on the mailer, while a line at the bottom urges voters to "Kick this swindler out of the house!"
As it turns out, Love didn’t own the land in question. He was just a trustee on a loan for it, and made no profit from the sale. He hired Raleigh attorney Hugh Stevens and two local attorneys, threatening to sue the NCGOP for libel.
The race was considered a close one before the mailer. In the end, Love lost to Stone by a little over 1400 votes.
Last week, eight months after the attack mailer, an apology from the party appeared in District 51 mailboxes. It reads in part:
“The accusations made against Mr. Love in the mailer were unjustified and the facts stated in support of the accusations were false. Accordingly, the North Carolina Republican Party hereby retracts the statements made in the mailer, apologizes to Mr. Love, and expresses its sincere regret for any distress or embarrassment caused to Mr. Love, his family, or his supporters.”
Attorney Hugh Stevens wouldn’t comment on the apology, except to say that “The matter has been resolved amicably to everybody’s satisfaction.”
"The apology was part of the settlement. Anything else about it is confidential,” Stevens said.
Rep. Mike Stone, the Republican who beat Love, reiterated that his campaign had nothing to do with the libelous mailer. “We run our races, and the state parties do their jobs,” Stone said. “What they do is on them.”
Asked if he had an opinion about the situation, Stone would only say, “We ran our campaign. We did our own materials. We don’t endorse any of that.”
NCGOP spokesman Mark Braden wouldn’t talk about it, either. “This has all been settled and handled,” he said. “On the advice of our counsel, the appropriate steps have been taken.”
Braden wouldn’t comment on whether the mailer might have changed the outcome of the race. But Love thinks it may have.
“It certainly didn’t help anything,” Love said. “It put me in the position of ‘well, people say, maybe he did.’ I don’t think the people that knew me, it changed their votes. But probably a lot of people it did, because they want to believe the worst, you know?”
Love hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll run for the state house again. But he’s done talking about the mailer. In a written statement, Love said, “I am pleased to have this behind me and will make no further statement regarding this matter.”