Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pendergraph isn't Pittenger's only opponent

Republican Robert Pittenger is in a vitriolic primary fight against Jim Pendergraph in his bid to replace Sue Myrick in the 9th Congressional District. But he's also mired in a battle against another fellow Republican -- his former colleague in the state Senate, Fern Shubert.

The two are engaged in quite a back-and-forth, which could obscure the bottom line fact that Pittenger voted for a bill that increased the value of property he owned.

Shubert told Observer reporter Jim Morrill in a story this month that Pittenger asked her in 2003 to support Waxhaw's proposed annexing of land that Pittenger's partnership partly owned. The annexation went through and, the developer acknowledged, increased the value of the land. Pittenger voted for that bill even though it directly benefited him.

"He came to me on the Senate floor with (Sen. Fletcher Hartsell) in tow and said he wished I would support it. I remember that ... vividly," said Shubert, who has endorsed Pendergraph.

Pittenger responded in an op-ed column on the Observer editorial page. He said Shubert had already pledged her support for the annexation and so there was no need to request her support. He pointed out that Shubert lost an election to Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Pittenger supporter.

Shubert, in turn, sent us 1,500 words in rebuttal. "I don't like being lied to and I really don't like it when people spread lies about me," she wrote. She argued that Pittenger actively pushed the annexation bill. In a letter to the editor today, Shubert said: "I didn't criticize Pittenger because I endorsed Jim Pendergraph. I endorsed Pendergraph because I don't think government should operate as a private investment club."

Now, Pittenger urges publication of a letter to the Observer from former state Sen. Patrick Ballantine. Ballantine writes, in part: "When he arrived, he hit the ground running. Robert Pittenger wanted to shake things up. In my opinion, rightfully so. After over 100 years of one-party rule, state government was bloated and didn't prioritize spending tax dollars very well. Robert is man of ideas but more importantly he is a doer. Sometimes, such a results-oriented, hard-charging attitude from a freshman legislator can upset the establishment, the old guard, so to speak. As Minority Leader, I welcomed Robert's enthusiasm, vigor, and tenacity."

Ballantine adds: "Moreover, in all my years of knowing Robert, I can say with certainty that his actions as an elected official were never self-serving. He always had the best interests of the public he served in every vote and every action he made."

Below is Shubert's condensed (500 words, not 1,500) response to Pittenger.

To us, the most important fact has gotten lost in all this back and forth. Pittenger voted for a bill that increased the value of property he partly owned. That's wrong. The rest is detail.

From Fern Shubert:

It seems odd to defend The Charlotte Observer, but Robert Pittenger’s attempt to make me the fall guy in his Waxhaw annexation leaves me no choice.

I’ve wondered why so many people seemed to blame me for an annexation that I did not initiate and could not block. The 2003 letter signed by Waxhaw Mayor Jack Hemby, which I first saw recently, makes it clear lies were spread about me to help Pittenger.

“The Town of Waxhaw has been attempting to annex the area in question for over two years. After failed attempts we asked Senator Fletcher Hartsell and Senator Fern Shubert to sponsor a bill to bring this land into Waxhaw. This bill was requested by the Town of Waxhaw and not Senator Robert Pittenger.”

The letter, obviously written to take heat off of Pittenger, is completely false. No one from Waxhaw asked me to run a bill or even contacted me about Pittenger’s annexation amendment.
Pittenger cites “An email from Councilman and Waxhaw Town Administrator Mike Simpson to senators requesting their support...” He fails to mention the email was only sent to Democrats. I was not contacted.

Pittenger’s feedback column continues the myth of a bill when it references a statement from Curtis Blackwood, who actually represented the affected area, and says “Without his critical support, there never would have been a bill. He would say I never discussed it with him.”
If you ask Blackwood, and I did, he doesn’t remember anyone asking him to take a role in the Waxhaw annexation, which makes sense as it was never debated in the House. Adding an unrelated issue to a bill that has already passed one house is a well known legislative trick, but it only works with the support of the legislature’s leaders.

Pittenger had already lined up the support of the legislature’s leaders before he came to me on the floor of the Senate, with Fletcher Hartsell following him, and told me Hartsell was going to amend a bill coming over from the House, H705, to help Waxhaw with a satellite annexation and he hoped I would support the amendment. At Pittenger’s request, I arranged a meeting with Steve Pace to learn about his proposed development. Pittenger led me to believe that Pace-Dowd owned the land.

When I met with Pace, I was relieved to learn that what was planned was not nearly as bad as I feared. I agreed not to oppose Pittenger’s annexation amendment (made by Hartsell) if I could amend the bill to make it clear a bill I’d filed dealing with satellites did not apply to that particular annexation.

So I readily admit, as I always have, that I agreed to accept the annexation provided it could not be used to anchor additional development that might be considerably less desirable, but I had nothing to do with initiating or carrying forward the annexation. So who did?

Robert Pittenger. And I can prove it.

Sorry, Robert, but you picked the wrong fall guy.

-- Posted by Taylor Batten


john law said...

Out of hundreds of business transactions, this is the best you can do? If the Observer is this concerned about Pittenger, he must be the right choice!

Alannc44 said...

Just a warmup for the stupid "Garden Parkway".

Garth Vader said...

Why did NC9 GOP voters pick these two losers instead of honorable men like Mike Steinberg and Ric Killian? It didn't help that Pitt and Pen were the only two candidates that the Observer bothered to cover.

Let's go back to the full primary and start over.

Not_a_hypocrit said...

I voted for Pendergraph in the primary, but with the Charlotte Observer pushing him so actively and kicking Pittenger so often, I may just vote for him (Pittenger) in the runoff