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Challenger: Lt. governor candidate 'outsourced' campaign to union

Posted May 2, 2012

Linda Coleman
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— A campaign consultant for a competing Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor accused Linda Coleman this week of "outsourcing" her primary campaign to the state's largest employee union.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina and its affiliates have spent at least $144,411 backing Coleman, four times what the candidate herself has been able to spend on her campaign.

Coleman, a former state representative and current director of state personnel, faces freshman Sen. Eric Mansfield, a doctor and minister, in the May 8 primary.

Mansfield lashed out this week, suggesting in emails and blog posts to fellow democrats that Coleman would be beholden to "special interests" if elected.

"I don’t know what SEANC will want for their money, but I know this is the same organization that supports Republican Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger and his friends, the ones who brought you Amendment One," Mansfield wrote, referring to the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage in North Carolina.

Coleman and her campaign said she is proud to embrace SEANC's backing.

"It sounds like sour grapes to me," Coleman said. "As soon as we start talking about his record and the polls show I'm ahead, SEANC all of a sudden becomes and issue."

SEANC and the campaign are not allowed to coordinate their activities, which means that Coleman can't control the group's message or have input into their ads.

"We work really hard to make sure there's a firewall between our campaign and what SEANC is doing," said Brad Crone, a consultant for Coleman. Still, many of the themes Coleman uses in her own campaign material are raised in the SEANC television ads on her behalf.

Thomas Mills, a consultant for Mansfield, said SEANC's involvement is all the more galling because Coleman has used a direct mail flier to suggest Mansfield's voting record showed he wasn't a true Democrat.

SEANC has given to Berger and actively campaigned in 2010 against Rep. Hugh Holliman, who was then the Democratic majority leader in the House.

"When interest groups are more important than individuals, when candidates no longer matter, we're all in trouble," Mills said.

Toni Davis, a spokeswoman for SEANC, dismissed Mills' and Mansfield's criticisms, saying they were merely complaining because Mansfield trails Coleman in the polls.

"I just think it's sad," she said.

Davis pointed to Coleman's legislative record, including her work as a freshman pushing for a state employee pay raise, as a reason for SEANC's support.

"She has fought for the hard working people in North Carolina," Davis said. "Now it's our chance to fight for her."

Coleman said she does not always agree with SEANC - she and the organization differ over a proposed three-quarter cent sales tax increase - but share "core values." 

Mills argued that Mansfield wouldn't be trailing were it not for SEANC's involvement.

"If they were not there, their candidate would lose," Mills said. "She has put together no campaign whatsoever. Without them, she would not be a factor."

Mansfield's campaign reported raising $231,134 in the first quarter of this year, including $70,000 Mansfield loaned his campaign.

SEANC's involvement leveled the playing field and is unusual, said long-time campaign consultant Gary Pearce, who has mainly worked with Democrats.

"It's a legitimate issue for Mansfield's campaign to raise because she would owe a lot to the state employees association," Pearce said.

Noting Mansfield has gotten thousands of dollars in campaign donations from doctors, Pearce said the question could easily be asked of him what he might owe his fellow physicians. Coleman's flier does note that Mansfield voted for medical malpractice reform, which limits lawsuits against doctors.

"I don't know if you're going to find another campaign in North Carolina where an interest group was so dominant in the race," Pearce said.

Crone said Coleman has relied on SEANC in large part due to the nature of this year's campaign. Gov. Bev Perdue announced in January that she would not run for re-election, prompting incumbent Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, a Democrat, to jump into the gubernatorial primary.

That gave candidates like Coleman, who would not have run against Dalton, only a few months to raise the money need to pursue a statewide campaign, Crone said.

"We've basically run a 12-week campaign," he said. "There was no ability for Coleman to get out and build a base of small donors."

9 Comments

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  • annrally May 7, 2012

    Dropped that SEIU sponsorship like a hot potato, eh?

  • shadowrider119 May 3, 2012

    Waa Waa Waa. A doctor and his consultants crying about working people being involved in a campaign. Sure, it is fine for the doctors giving $1,000s at a time to give and be the puppeteer, but God forbid if working folks start giving $5, $10 at a time and back someone that got them a raise. Sounds like the good Doc didn't hire a top-notch group of consultants that knew how to raise money or get labor backing in a Democratic primary (AFL-CIO also endorsed Coleman). Wonder how many of the 1% have given to the Doc?

  • whatusay May 3, 2012

    I will never vote for anyone that a "union" supports. Union leaders take money from their workers and use it to promote communism.

  • WooHoo2You May 2, 2012

    Even worse are the ads for her paid for by SEIU!!!! (Service Employees International Union) They intimidated their way thru Obama's campaign in '08 with stiff arm tactics!-original intent

    Yeah, TV ads are super "stiff arm." What next, postcards in the mail?

  • barbdant May 2, 2012

    I have serious concerns about a candidate, i.e. Linda Coleman, who has an attitude on her face the entire time she was in an interview with Senator Mansfield. Not sure why other than Senator Mansfield had good, well though out answers and she was annoyed. She seems like she may be an unpleasant person to work with if she does not get her way. My vote is for Eric Mansfield.

  • muggs May 2, 2012

    Just take one really good look at her,it's self describable,same with the two they just ousted out of their jobs at the Disastor Relief scandel.

  • Pirate01 May 2, 2012

    Not only paid for by SEIU but the same SEIU that was part of the occupy and "mayday" protest screaming just as loud as anyone else that cops should be killed, bankers families killed, breaking windows, turning over cars and sexually assaulting women at every protest. Not to mention being arm and arm with devoted communists.

  • original intent May 2, 2012

    Even worse are the ads for her paid for by SEIU!!!! (Service Employees International Union) They intimidated their way thru Obama's campaign in '08 with stiff arm tactics!

  • faperrigo May 2, 2012

    It makes sense that SEANC would promote the State Personnel Director. It also makes sense for Coleman to let SEANC carry the water. It also makes sense for Mansfield to complain about it. It all makes sens.