NC Democratic Party Chairman called and we spoke for several minutes about reports that Ben Chavis will be named as new Executive Director of the Party. Voller feels he is not getting fair treatment from some media outlets, especially the Raleigh News and Observer.
He appeared to be listening attentively to my questions about the firing of Dempsey and the hiring of Chavis. He did not want to get into details of Dempsey personnel matters, nor did I ask him to. However, he stated for the record that he "considered the situation like that of a coach who has to pull a player in the middle of a game. It is not easy, but sometimes it has to be done."
Voller cited several misrepresentations of Ben Chavis by state media. He said he is not a long-time friend of Voller, but they only met during the period when Gov. Bev Perdue was considering a pardon for the Wilmington 10. He said he spoke up on behalf of Chavis, when other public officials would not. Voller said, "I was out front when others were not."
Voller thinks Chavis will move the state forward and address questions of wealth and income inequality. He feels Chavis has the background to lead the organizing around these issues.
I asked him about the concerns raised about Chavis' connection to the Nation of Islam, and I said this connection would not play well in NC. Voller downplayed Chavis history, especially about the allegations of sexual harrassment. He followed up with an email that said this:
Martha from Ben directly:
1. 50 year veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who has been "falsely" accused on numerous occasions and arrested over 65 times in NC and VA, unjustly jailed and imprisoned, yet during the past 50 years has "never" been convicted of any serious infraction of the law, except in the Wilmington Ten case that also was eventually overturned and found "innocent" of the charges per the investigation and action of the Honorable Governor Beverly Perdue.
2. Although false allegations of sexual harassment have been made in the past, it is a fact there has "never" been an arrest, conviction nor admission of guilt with respect to any of those specific false allegations.
3. Today in 2014 I am a member in "good standing" of the Oak Level United Church of Christ in Warren County North Carolina where I was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Christ 34 years ago. Currently not in the Nation of Islam.
4. A registered Democrat for 45 years
5. Native of Oxford, NC in Granville County NC where the Chavis family has lived since 1740.
More to come
Hon. Randolph S. Voller, Chair
North Carolina Democratic Party
I talked with Stephanie Goslen of Franklin County after speaking with Voller. She backed up much of what he had told me. She feels once the voters in NC have heard from Ben Chavis directly that they-- like her--will see that he can be a dynamic leader who is not afraid and who will unite folks across all races and creeds."
Stephanie also said that Voller has strong support from members of the Party's State Council. She said 11 of the 13 District Chairs support his recent actions, and there is strong support among at-large members, too.
Just want to say I appreciate both Randy and Stephanie taking the time to talk and being so frank with me. Randy said more information will be coming soon.