We've long heard grumbles from Republicans in Mecklenburg County about District 6 commissioner Bill James. They've sighed at his attacks on homosexuals as "sexual predators." They've winced at his references to blacks living in a "moral sewer." They've wondered what would happen if District 6 voters were given the opportunity to choose a conservative who could advocate for them like James, but without the incumbent's rough edges.
We'll learn that soon enough, thanks to the campaign of Republican Ed Driggs. But already, Driggs' candidacy is exposing an unusually public rift within the party.
Driggs sent out a press release moments ago touting a letter of support signed by six prominent Mecklenburg Republicans: current school board member Tim Morgan, former commissioner Edwin Peacock, former Council members John Lassiter and John Tabor, former N.C. Rep. Ed McMahan and businessman Lauren Steele.
Much of the letter is fairly boilerplate stuff, lauding Driggs as a conservative who can do conservative things for his district. But it also notes that his "energy, intelligence and civility will bring credibility to District 6 representation that has been lacking for years."
More to the point is a supplementary quote from Morgan, who says: "The controversy caused by his divisive behavior and un-Christian comments is more helpful to Democrats than Republicans."
James, in an email this afternoon, responds:
There are conservative Republicans and there are the few liberal GOP’s such as this crowd (about 10% of the GOP electorate – mostly concentrated in Myers Park). Competition is a good thing and I am more than willing to face off against a liberal and his cadre of non-district 6 supporters. Lassiter I think lives in District 6 but as for the rest, I doubt it.Some Republicans, who see themselves in the minority on every major elected body in Charlotte and Mecklenburg, believe that James is at least somewhat responsible for their struggles. So long as he's throwing toxic barbs from south Mecklenburg, they believe they'll have difficulty reaching young voters and a business community that sees James as representative of the county party.
James, however, has passionate supporters in District 6, many of whom are mistrustful of the rest of Mecklenburg - Democrat or Republican. We're about to find out how deep that passion and mistrust runs.
Peter St. Onge