In the strangest turn of events produced by a North Carolina Democratic Party sexual harassment scandal, chairman David Parker resigned — and then unresigned — Saturday. After delivering his farewell speech. And after hitting the road to go home.
WNCN-TV17 reported that the party’s executive committee held a lengthy series of votes, ending in a 269-203 decision to reject Parker’s resignation outright. That left some in the party scratching their heads and others downright angry: Parker had announced his intention to resign weeks ago, and said he would hold a special election Saturday for a new chairman.
But before filling his seat, the party had to accept his resignation. Since party rules don’t include anything about how to handle a resignation, Parker told the gathering in Greensboro that they should abide by Robert’s Rules of Order — which require a formal vote on whether to accept the resignation.
Since a majority voted “nay,” Parker isn’t going anywhere. And since it was Parker himself who launched the voting process, party faithful told reporters Saturday that the result — like the sexual harassment scandal that launched the whole episode — is suspect.
In mid-April, now former North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley resigned amid allegations, first uncovered by The Daily Caller, that he had sexually harassed former communications staffer Adriadn Ortega. Parmley and Parker reached a financial settlement with Ortega, including non-disclosure agreements.
After Parmley resigned, North Carolina’s highest-ranking Democratic Party officials began calling for Parker’s resignation over his handling of the scandal, with some complaining that he kept them in the dark. Outgoing North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton — now the Democratic gubernatorial candidate — demanded he step aside, as did the Democratic National Committee.
Just weeks ago, an unnamed national DNC official said that Parker was a “man without a party.”
“He’s operating out of a hotel in Raleigh outside of the party structure and without the support of staff, the national party or any significant party official or elected official,” the official said. “He’s isolated and that isolation will only increase until he makes the decision that is not in his best interest but in the best interest of the party. The status quo is untenable. He needs to step aside.”
Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard — who the left-leaning Huffington Post calls President Barack Obama’s “glue man” — praised Parker’s decision to resign. “David Parker made the right decision to resign effective immediately following the next executive committee meeting of the NCDP,” Gaspard said. “This is in the best interest of the Party. The NCDP should convene this meeting as soon as possible.”
But on Saturday, Parker may have been influenced by other party leaders to stay on the job. The News & Observer newspaper reported that as vote after vote was held, rumors “swept the hotel” that had everyone from Gov. Perdue to the White House twisting his arm.
Parker said later that he had spoken with people “who represent candidates who you are going to elect in November.’’
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse didn’t immediately respond when TheDC asked for comment on how Parker escaped the promise he made to his party, and to North Carolinians, by staying in his position.
The Associated Press reported that Lt. Gov. Dalton is not happy with how Parker handled the meeting Saturday. “The LT Gov is surprised and disappointed,” a Dalton spokesperson said. “David Parker had assured him that he would resign and assist in the smooth transition to a new chair. Clearly that did not happen.”
Regional Republican National Committee spokesman Matt Connelly said, too, that Parker’s rapid about-face “is further evidence that the President’s ground game and national convention are in absolute turmoil in the Tar Heel State.”
In early September at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama will accept his party’s re-nomination to seek the White House. That meeting will be in Charlotte, North Carolina. Obama won the state’s 15 electoral votes in 2008, but by the narrowest of margins — just 14,000 votes.