Group defends use of controversial “fire” campaign signs


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

Posted on October 11, 2013 at 9:24 PM

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. -- The campaign signs are out throughout Mecklenburg County, but certain ones are drawing fire from city leaders and members of the community.

Over the weekend, TollFreeNC started putting up signs that asked voters to “fire” two candidates in particular.

“These are not representatives that have listened to their constituents and caved into special interests,” Vallee Bubak with TollFreeNC said.

Cornelius Commissioner Sarah McAulay was not surprised to be the target by TollFreeNC, given their history.

“I thought it was an interesting way they tried to get their message across, but they did not identify themselves,” she said.

Local election laws do not require such signs to disclose such details.

Bubak says one reason McAulay was singled out was her behavior during a meeting she chaired, where they accused her of trying to “silence” those who do not agree with her.

The video is posted on the group’s website.

“I don’t appreciate it, but I expected some of the things with people involved in it,”said McAulay.

The commissioner says the video shows the group’s spokesperson trying to “take control” and blatantly disrupt the meeting.

“I’m not going to change my position,” she said “I think it (signs) did the reversal of what they expected. I think quite a few people definitely want me to stay in the race and they are strongly supportive.”

Cornelius commissioner, John Bradford, sent NBC Charlotte this statement:

Since the commencement of negative campaigning in Cornelius I have received an outpouring of support from our community to "Re-Hire" me as their Town Commissioner for yet another term. 

The response and support has truly been incredible.  As of this morning it appears most of the negative signs have been removed. 

Yesterday, at a Cornelius Candidate's Forum, two of the three candidates that are backed and slated by the group responsible for these negative antics repudiated their own group. In fact, I was publicly endorsed by one of them, specifically.  I am pleased that we came together as a community to condemn this negative campaign approach. 

I look forward to continuing to serve the good people of Cornelius for a second term.

Del Arrendale, who had been endorsed by the group sent this statement, denouncing the signs and asking the group to remove his name. He took it one step further, endorsing, John Bradford.

The ugly signs around Town are unwelcomed in our community.

All of the candidates are running because we love Cornelius and feel we can make a difference for our Town. I was as surprised as anyone to hear about those signs. I do not condone those signs, never would, and asked the Widen I77 group to remove them. I also ask that they stop using my name to promote their organization.

I cannot support this type of campaigning and demand now, today, any WidenI77 sign with my name on it be removed. I too apologize to Commissioner Bradford and his wife, Shea. I am sorry they had to try to explain to their children.  I have always liked and respected John. I voted for him last time and I will vote for him November 5. I am asking my supporters to vote for John too. John is not aware of this, but I have always stated to my friends, like Woody, and to my supporters in meetings, that Cornelius needs experience, and John and David have it. I agreed to run because many of my friends, like Dave Gilroy, Jim Bensman and Ron Kelley know about my experience and leadership.

Let's re-elect John Bradford, Dave Gilroy, for Board Continuity and elect me for my town experience.

Bubek says the signs are a blessing in disguise, because they now know Arrendale’s position.  They have decided for now to pull the signs down, and refocus the attention on preventing the toll project from moving ahead.

“Certainly we don’t want them re-elected, but we’d rather be the focus of stopping the toll, and not have controversy be about the signs,” she said.