Hillsborough, N.C. — Minutes after he walked through the burned-out offices of the Orange County Republican Party, GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence called Tuesday for extensive poll-watching nationwide during the upcoming election.
Pence spoke with several volunteers in the offices, which were targeted in a Saturday night firebomb attack that Pence referred to as cowardly, senseless and "political terrorism."
"An attack on our political system is an attack on us all," he told reporters outside the offices, adding party workers "will not be intimidated."
Evidence from the scene has been sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., for analysis, police said, adding that investigators are confident a Molotov cocktail was used to cause the damage. Local and federal investigators also are reviewing video from nearby security cameras for evidence, police said.
After giving thanks that no one was inside the offices at the time of the attack, Pence criticized a dearth of nationwide coverage of the incident, saying a similar attack on a Democratic office would have generated national headlines.
The disparate treatment, he said, supports the position of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump that there is "overwhelming media bias" in favor of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"I've been astonished at the level of negative coverage of my running mate and the scant coverage of an avalanche of scandals and corruption coming out of the campaign of Hillary Clinton," Pence said.
WikiLeaks has released numerous emails in recent days obtained from hacked accounts detailing actions Clinton and her aides took.
Pence then urged supporters to take part in poll-watching during the election, noting there have been instances of voter fraud in the past. Trump also has routinely suggested that the election has been rigged in favor of Clinton.
"Donald Trump and I are encouraging all of our supporters around the country and, frankly, every American whatever their politics to take the opportunity to be involved in a respectful way in providing accountability at our polling places," he said. "The one-person, one-vote principle is the very bedrock of our democracy, and ensuring through participation in the process of assembling the vote between now and Nov. 8 is a certain way that the American people can ensure the integrity of this election."
Word of Pence's unannounced visit spread quickly through Hillsborough, attracting a crowd to the GOP offices.
"They told us Pence was coming, and I told my dad we had to come down here and see him," Arielle Webster said.
"I thought it was cool he’d take time out of his day to be with us and support us," Simon Little said.
"I thought it was a good move," Ethan Stroud said. "He said some good words about it."
Pence discusses Supreme Court, questions Clinton in Fayetteville stop
Following his stop in Hillsboro, Pence held a rally in Fayetteville, where he touched on several key topics during a 30 minute speech.
Pence arrived in Fayetteville to the cheers of a couple of hundred people and immediately acknowledged current events specific to North Carolina, including Hurricane Matthew and the incident at the GOP office.
“I saw firsthand the courageous volunteers and how the people of North Carolina will not be intimidated and will not be deterred,” he said.
Pence quickly moved on to the business of discussing Hillary Clinton and questioning her ethics.
“I get up every day and it’s basically the national media doing half of Hillary Clinton’s work for her every day,” he said.
Pence said the election, however, is about more than ethics. Specifically, Pence touched on four major points he said are key to the success of the nation- foreign policy, homeland security, prosperity and the future of the Supreme Court. He said the balance of the highest court in the land is perhaps the most important part of the election.
“Men and women, with the passing of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia, the balance of our Supreme Court is literally on the ballot,” he said.
Many at the rally said they’re convinced the Trump/Pence ticket is best not only for current issues, but for future generations.
“We have a granddaughter. I’m very worried about her future. I want there to be a Christian president, a president who cares about our national security,” said Sanford resident Terrie Rehmert.
Pence ended his speech by urging the crowd to make one final push over the next three weeks by talking about the importance of the election to everyone they know.