State party turmoil could hurt Democratic fundraising

Posted April 20, 2012 5:49 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2012 6:42 p.m. EDT

— A sexual harassment scandal that has roiled the North Carolina Democratic Party for more than a week could hurt the party's fundraising efforts in the final days before the state primary and in the months leading up to the November general election.

A junior staffer filed the complaint late last year against the party's executive director, alleging that Jay Parmley engaged in unwanted touching, made suggestive comments and showed him a lewd photo.

Parmley resigned his post Sunday after news of the complaint became public, but he has denied wrongdoing.

Party Chairman David Parker, who agreed to a secret settlement to end the complaint, resisted calls to step down from Gov. Beverly Perdue and other state officials, saying he believes he handled the situation appropriately and was determined to stay on through the May 8 primary.

On Thursday, Parker called for party elections to be moved up to next month from June and said he wouldn't run for re-election.

Party operatives said Friday that they're concerned about the lingering effects of the scandal. Donors could support individual candidates instead of contributing to the state party, or they could put away their checkbooks altogether.

"The candidates are finding it very difficult, as opposed to four years ago, to raise money," William Peace University political science professor David McLennan said. "If they're struggling to raise money, the party's in turmoil and there's less money coming in, the candidates are going, 'Wow, you're putting us behind the eight ball here.'"

One Democratic strategist told WRAL News that, as long as the turmoil remains a story, it's a distraction for candidates and donors.

Democrats said they aren't yet concerned about any impact on President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. He will return to North Carolina for the fifth time in a year next Tuesday to discuss student loan debt in a speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Still, the state party plays a key role in campaign coordination and getting out the vote, and funding effects that.