Politics

Mudcat tries running Democrat candidate to the right of Grover Norquist

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Mudcat Saunders may be best known for working for Democratic candidates like former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards or Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.

But down in North Carolina this year, the southern Democratic operative who hails from Virginia’s Applachian mountains is trying to pull something off you don’t see everyday from a Democrat: running a candidate to the right of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

Saunders, a self described “ol’ timey Democrat” operative, is running an ad on behalf of a Democrat accusing North Carolina Republican state Sen. Jean Preston of voting for seven tax increases despite signing ATR’s “no-tax pledge.” Saunders has asked ATR to help him go after Preston.

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But it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to count on the anti-tax group’s help.

Patrick Gleason, ATR’s state director, said the anti-tax group doesn’t find her votes in favor of county occupancy and licensing taxes an example of breaking the pledge because they were just authorizations of county action and not direct votes on a statewide tax hike.

“In our opinion, she’s been a stalwart defender of North Carolina taxpayers,” he said.

In fact, Gleason says the group “applauds” her for voting against $1.1 billion in tax hikes in the North Carolina’s 2009 budget.

Saunders works for Preston’s opponent, Democrat Barbara Garrity Blake, in the state Senate race — someone he called a “genuine no new tax Democrat.”

She has not signed ATR’s pledge, Saunders admitted, though she would “in a New York second,” and would pledge to vote against the occupancy taxes that Preston voted for.

Gleason said all candidates, regardless of party, across the country are invited to sign the ATR pledge.

In an e-mail to ATR provided to The Daily Caller, Saunders argued to Gleason that Preston should not be allowed to brag about her association with ATR.

“Americans need to know your policy concerning liars,” Saunders wrote to Gleason. “Do you take them off your list and point them out for what they are? Or do you let them drag your good name through a hog pen of deceit?”

“As a rural advocate and activist, I am dead dog certain that the last thing rural America needs is any more taxes,” Saunders said.