Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
Johnston County attorney Kelly Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, made a big splash when she announced she would seed her own campaign for the new 13th Congressional District with $2 million of her own money. Daughtry is the daughter of Leo Daughtry, a former member of the state House who was once the top Republican in the chamber.
Eight Republicans will meet in the May 17 primary for the right to represent the Grand Old Party in North Carolina’s one true swing congressional seat. The newly configured 13th includes southern Wake County, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, and some of Cary. The district includes all of GOP-rich Johnston County and parts of Wayne and Harnett.
However, it’s not the massive donation to her own campaign that is raising eyebrows. It is her recent donations to Democrats drawing fire from her Republican opponents.
Less than one year ago, Daughtry donated to Democrat Cheri Beasley, the presumptive Democrat nominee for U.S. Senate, according to reports with the Federal Elections Commission. Daughtry donated $250 to the former chief justice on June 18, 2021.
Beasley had announced her campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in late April 2021.
Republican Mark Walker had announced his U.S. Senate bid in December of 2020.
Republicans Pat McCrory and Ted Budd announced their U.S. Senate bids in April of 2021.
Daughtry also supported Beasley for her re-election to the State Supreme Court in 2014, donating $200 dollars to Beasley. While clearly aligned with the Democratic Party, Beasley and the other candidates ran without having their party affiliation on the ballot in 2014.
Beasley defeated Republican Mike Robinson in one of the closest races of the year by just 0.11%.
Former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, criticized Daughtry for her donation to North Carolina’s liberal Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein. Daughtry donated $500 to Stein’s 2020 re-election effort in June of 2020.
“My campaign is aware of at least these two donations to liberal democrats,” said Ellmers. “Daughtry’s support for Senate candidate Beasley clearly indicates she does not believe in the America First agenda. Her support for Stein is a slap in the face of the General Assembly and the voters who overwhelmingly passed State Voter ID requirement.”
Stein defeated the Republican candidate Jim O’Neill in one of North Carolina’s closest political contests in 2020, by 0.26% or 13,612 votes out of 5.4 million cast.
Stein has worked to thwart Republicans at every turn. Just weeks after Daughtry donated to the Stein campaign, the attorney general led an effort with Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper and mega-liberal Democrat election attorney Marc Elias to change election laws in ways favorable to Democratic candidates without approval of the Republican General Assembly. The Stein scheme was among the most controversial political issues in all of 2020 in North Carolina, causing some to question the legitimacy of our governmental institutions and ultimately the 2020 election results. When Daughtry donated to Stein, he was widely understood to be the Republicans’ No. 1 nemesis in Raleigh along with Gov. Roy Cooper.
Ellmers, a member of the U.S. House from 2011 to 2017, has donated to a long list of Republicans. There is no record of her supporting any Democrat.
Johnston County Republican DeVan Barbour is also running for the Republican nomination in CD-13 and has a long history of donating to Republican candidates and to the N.C. Republican party. He has no history of donating to Democrats.
Carolina Journal was unable to find a record of any political donations by Bo Hines, another CD-13 Republican primary candidate.
As Republicans fought to gain seats on the State Supreme Court in 2020, Daughtry was supporting a Democrat. In 2019 and 2020, Daughtry donated to Democrat State Supreme Court nominee Mark Davis. Davis eventually lost in 2020 to Republican Tamara Barringer. In total, Daughtry donated $1,250 to Democrat Mark Davis.
“Kelly Daughtry and her family are proud to have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the conservative movement and Republican Party in North Carolina over the decades,” said Dee Stewart, senior adviser to the Daughtry campaign, when asked about her donations.
“Washington insiders attacked Donald Trump the same way in 2016, because he’d given to Democrats as a businessman,” he said. “Kelly is a businesswoman and more than 90% of Kelly’s donations were to Republicans. She and her family are proud they donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and the Republican Party and plan to continue that effort in future elections.”
Daughtry has donated more money to Republican candidates than to Democrat candidates. In addition to donating numerous times to her fathers’ political efforts, she contributed to the campaigns of House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) — $2,000 (2019), $4,000 (2020); Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)— $2000 (2019); U.S. Representative David Rouser — $500 (2021); U.S. Sen. Thom Tills $2,000 — (2019), $2000 (2013); N.C. Republican Party — $5000 (2018); Pat McCrory — $1,000 (2011); State Sen. Neal Hunt — $250 (2008); and Judge Paul Holcombe — $250 (2014).
Trump, then a private citizen, was asked in June 2015 about his donations to the Clinton Foundation, as well as his contributions to other prominent Democrats, such as U.S. senator from New York Chuck Schumer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.
“It’s smart. It’s called being an intelligent person and a great business person,” Trump responded. “But the truth is that, you have to be able to get along with — if you’re gonna be a business person, even in the United States, you wanna get along with all sides because you’re gonna need things from everybody. And you wanna get along with all sides, it’s very important.”
Trump said that a lack of Republicans in New York also explains his contributions to Democrats over the years.
Unlike New York, there’s no shortage of Republicans in North Carolina. Daughtry’s donations to Democrats in fact were often made in highly competitive races with a seemingly qualified Republican candidate. In none of the races where Daughtry donated to a Democrat did she also donate to a Republican in the same race.
Also, Trump’s business was hotels, real estate development and casinos.
As an attorney, Daughtry’s business is the law.
The campaign did not clarify what business purpose Daughtry had in supporting Democrat Josh Stein over Republican Jim O’Neill for state attorney general in 2020 or Democrat State Supreme Court candidate Davis over Republican candidate Barringer, or what business purpose Daughtry had in donating to Democrat Cheri Beasley over any other Republican in this year’s U.S. Senate race — and if that business purpose still exists.
After the initial posting of this column, the Daughtry campaign notified Carolina Journal that Ms. Daughtry intends to vote for the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.
“Kelly Daughtry’s donations to North Carolina’s most liberal Democrats is further proof to Republican primary voters that she is not a conservative,” said Rob Burgess, senior advisor to Bo Hines for Congress. “Her donations show that she is actually a liberal, and those liberal values are what she will lean on if elected to Congress. Kelly Daughtry has put her money where her heart is, and Republican primary voters want no part of it.”
In 2014, Daughtry supported a number of Democrats.
Daughtry donated $270 to Democrat Wade Michael Norris, an unsuccessful candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives.
Also in 2014, Daughtry donated 250 to Mark Bibbs, a Democratic candidate for State House 24 in Wilson County. Bibbs lost the Democratic primary to Jean Farmer-Butterfield. Republicans did not file a candidate in that race that year.
North Carolina had an unusual race for the State Court of Appeals in 2014. Due to a late retirement, one race was decided without primaries. Nineteen candidates appeared on the November ballot, with Republican John Tyson winning with just 24% of the vote. Yet Daughtry supported Democrat Lori Christian in the race, donating $100 to her campaign. She finished with 3.8% of the vote.