A minor salvo in what promises to be a highly interesting N. C. House District 51 battle between incumbent Democrat Jimmy Love Sr. and Republican challenger Linda Shook, who sits on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, was lobbed last week. Shook took exception to Love’s role in sculpting and voting for a “watered-down” House bill regarding forced municipal annexation, saying Love – a long-time member of the N. C. House a generation ago who returned to the seat when it was vacated by John Sauls – “led the charge” to weaken the bill. (Love’s retort was that only the term of the moratorium was shortened, and it was done so at the request of the bill’s sponsor; see story in Tuesday’s edition of The Herald.)
Things may now be escalating.
It started with news reports about an $80,000 annual raise that Mary Easley, wife of Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, received from N. C State University that apparently by-passed the rules of the UNC system. The 88 percent salary boost – Mrs. Easley is an executive-in-residence at NCSU – was given by her supervisors despite a policy that says the UNC Board of Governors must approve raises of more than 15 percent of $10,000.
Mary Easley’s raise has everyone in an uproar. (See our editorial in today’s edition for more on that.)
Now add the respective chairmen of the Lee County Republican and Democrat parties to the mix.
Republican Chairman Richard Littiken went on the offensive, sending the follow message on July 2 to Rep. Love about the raise, referencing a story on the WRAL website, and “pork barrel” spending in the state’s budget…the message was forwarded to me on Wednesday:
Please see the Mary Easley story from WRAL below. This is government corruption at it’s highest level. I am surprised with all your years of experience in the General Assembly on the Appropriations Committee that this kind of appropriations waste could happen. As Chairman of such a powerful subcommittee I ask that you stand up for the taxpayers of Harnett and Lee County and call for Mary Easley to step down for the remainder of her husband’s term as Governor?
With gas at $4/gallon, the taxpayers of NC House District 51 can no longer afford for State Government to continue to abuse the State’s Treasury. Will you vote against the budget if your Democrat Leaders in the NCGA do not remove this and other pork barrel appropriations?
Littiken’s message indicated it was copied to people on his party’s e-mail list. It didn’t mention Shook by name, but the inference was that Rep. Love, in his position in the House, was going to be held partly accountable for the raise and other fiscal toe-stubs in the budget in a “guilt by association” tie.
Here’s Rep. Love’s response:
Received your e-mail message of July 2, 2008, regarding Mrs. Easleyʼs raise from $90,300.00 to $170,000.00. I agree this increase is way out of line and shows extremely bad judgment on her part, especially while her husband is still in office. The hiring and salary policies at N.C. State University also merit some serious attention. I have already registered by objections about this huge salary increase with both the Governorʼs people and the Universityʼs representatives here at the General Assembly. Perhaps your complaint should have directed also to the U.N.C. Board of Governors, President Erskine Bowles, and N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger.
Individual salaries are not specifically set in the budget document. The money used in this instance was included in the 2007 budget which, as you know, I voted against. I have always been a fiscal conservative and committed to eliminating excessive and wasteful spending. If the budget presently before us has elements that I object to, I will not hesitate to vote against it again.
As for your request that I call for Mary Easley to step down for the remainder of her husbandʼs term as Governor, I will agree if you first demand that Linda Shook step down as a County Commissioner . Mrs. Shook and her business owe taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, the North Carolina Department of Revenue, and yes, the Lee County Tax Office. Also, according to the records at the courthouse, she owes a former landlord $70,000.00 for non-payment of rent. To me, this raises questions about her ability to handle her own affairs much less those of the county and state.
Representative Jimmy L. Love, Sr.
Love’s message contained a “cc” to the House District 51 List; he also sent a copy to Don Trabold, chairman of the Lee County Democrat Party, which said:
Herein find an e-mail message from Richard Littikin and my response. I would ask you to send this to all Democrats on your list.
Representative Jimmy L. Love, Sr.
Trabold complied. Of course, Shook’s financial issues, related to her investment in “Golfing by Design,” a business she helped create with her son, have been documented in previous stories in The Herald. No doubt that her bankruptcy filing will be an issue in the campaign. But Republicans, according to one person who contacted us, said that Love may have violated state law in sending out the message – deemed “political” by the caller – in his capacity as a state representative.
Stay tuned to The Herald for more coverage about the race that – we hope – will be mostly about issues affecting local voters and the state of North Carolina.