The Mecklenburg County Republican Party sent a letter on Oct. 19 to the NC Board of Elections and Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather requesting an investigation into alleged false claims made by Carolina Forward, a Carrboro-based policy organization with ties to Democrats.
The complaint, sent on behalf of the MeckGOP by Charlotte-based attorney Yale Haymond, relies on NC Gen. Stat. § 163-274 (a)(9), which makes it unlawful “For any person to publish or cause to be circulated derogatory reports with reference to any candidate in any primary or election, knowing such report to be false or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity, when such report is calculated or intended to affect the chances of such candidate for nomination or election.” Violation of the statute is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Three days earlier, the MeckGOP sent a cease-and-desist letter to Carolina Forward, demanding retraction of the alleged false statements and online postings made by the organization weeks prior.
“Carolina Forward falsely claims in its post that MeckGOP is surreptitiously endorsing and supporting three, non-Republican candidates in a non-partisan school board race; and you use a MeckGOP logo in furtherance of this false claim. Specifically, your post ‘alerts’ voters that ‘the @meckgop is trying to “pull a Cotham” again’…and that Mecklenburg Republicans are ‘hiding their involvement and endorsement,'” wrote MeckGOP general counsel Stacie McGinn in the letter.
“Our Vice Chairman has denied your claims on multiple occasions. Indeed, our Plan of Organization expressly prohibits MeckGOP from endorsing candidates in non-partisan races. And yet the post remains,” she continued.
These developments come as a result of Carolina Forward’s recent online posts and statements made about the MeckGOP and the Moms for Liberty organization regarding candidates for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board (CMS).
Michael Johnson, one of CMS candidates at the center of the controversy, stated in a recent op-ed that the slate was not endorsed nor had any communication with either the MeckGOP or Moms for Liberty.
“It saddens me because I feel like I’m being attacked by my own party when all of us have the kids’ best interests at heart,” said Johnson.
In a thread posted to X on Oct. 4, Carolina Forward accused the MeckGOP of endorsing and promoting a “Unity Slate” of candidates for CMS. Moms for Liberty was also implicated in the series of postings, which prompted a reply from Brooke Weiss, who serves as Moms for Liberty’s chairperson in Mecklenburg County.
“We also notified them of our intent to take action for the unauthorized use of our logo and false claim that we endorsed ‘the unity slate,’” Weiss told Carolina Journal in an emailed statement. “Moms for Liberty: Mecklenburg has not endorsed any candidates and never contributes financially to any candidates.”
After Weiss notified Carolina Forward that an attorney would be contacted due to the logo use, the graphic was removed from Carolina Forward’s post.
“The MeckGOP is committed to fair and transparent elections,” MeckGOP vice chairman David Merrill stated in a press release. “Our election laws are clear that no person is allowed to circulate derogatory reports regarding a candidate in reckless disregard for the truth. We are asking the state board of elections to take immediate action, before our local school board election is irreparably tainted.”
Carolina Forward responded to CJ on the potential legal action in a statement by accusing the MeckGOP and Moms for Liberty of continued dishonesty in how they operate.
“Mecklenburg Republicans and the Moms for Liberty just refuse to be honest with voters about who they support anymore — whether it’s Tricia Cotham, last year’s school board elections, or this year’s school board elections,” said Blair Reeves, who serves as Carolina Forward’s executive director. “This is a pattern with them. They can file all the complaints they want, but we’ll keep telling the truth, until the Meck GOP quits lying.”
The posts pertaining to the CMS “Unity Slate” remain active on Carolina Forward’s X account as of this publication.
Editor’s note: In earlier title, the word “suit” was used, but the letter was a legal complaint, not a lawsuit.