CONCORD, N.C. -- Republican congressional candidate Tim D'Annunzio fired back on Monday at GOP leaders who've spoken out against his campaign, demanding that the chairman of the North Carolina GOP step down.
"Chairman Fetzer broke the Plan of Organization of the Republican Party by speaking against my candidacy," he said. "I am officially calling for Chairman Fetzer to step down. He should resign the position."
D'Annunzio, a Hoke County businessman, will face sportscaster Harold Johnson in a runoff election for the Republican nomination for North Carolina's 8th District House seat. The winner will face Rep. Larry Kissell (D-Biscoe) in November.
D'Annunzio's comments came in response to an article published in Sunday's Charlotte Observer that details reasons that Fetzer and others have called D'Annunzio unfit for office. The article is primarily based on court documents from a 1995 divorce proceeding.
Those documents detail D'Annunzio's checkered legal past, including several arrests and a struggle with heroin. The documents also lay out a series of bizarre statements his ex-wife attributed to him during their custody battle, including a claim that he was the Messiah and had discovered the Ark of the Covenant.
He has previously admitted to his criminal history, but D'Annunzio refused Monday to address the article, except to call it "lies and accusations." In a series of bizarre confrontations, he repeatedly refused to answer reporters' questions, citing the presence of his grown children and young grandchildren at the event.
"I am not going to address any allegations. If anybody else wants to start getting into these allegations, I will end this right now," he said, in response to a question about the "Ark of the Covenant" claim.
Once, he called the press conference "over," but then continued to speak. Later, he told a reporter to leave. When that reporter refused, D'Annunzio said, "Well then, I'll leave," but then continued speaking.
D'Annunzio and a handful of his supporters even got into a shouting match with a private citizen in the crowd who accused D'Annunzio of dodging questions.
"If you win the primary, are you not going to answer any questions?" Lanny Lancaster yelled out.
"Attacks!" D'Annunzio fired back. "I answer every question. You just want to focus on non-issues!"
The supporters who joined him at the press conference--many of them members of the Tea Party movement--said they stand by D'Annunzio.
"It’s the character that’s developed from failure that creates the individual who can stand tall and have courage to defend our constitution when he gets to Washington," Sharon Christie, communications director for "We the People" of Cabarrus County, told NewsChannel 36. "I need somebody that’s thick-skinned, that’s been through the trials, who’s been through the battle."
Despite the resistance from GOP Chairman Fetzer and other Republican leaders, D'Annunzio presents himself as the frontrunner for the runoff. He had a 1,000 vote lead over Johnson in the May primary.