Mid-term election has Republicans and Democrats supporting opposing parties

People register and cast their ballots during early voting at a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

ALBEMARLE — Stanly County early voters have seen poll workers from candidates and political parties handing out campaign material as they make a final push for their candidates. But some poll workers are handing out a mixed bag of Republicans and Democrats on those familiar palm cards.

One card which is being handed out by poll workers asks voters to “put Stanly County ahead of party politics” and endorses Democrats and Republicans for various offices from U.S. House to County School Board. The multiparty card, which was originally printed as an ad paid for by Stanly County citizens, has registered Republicans backing a Democrat for U.S. House against incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Hudson and Democrat funders backing Republican Wayne Sasser against Democrat Karen Webster in the race for N.C. House District 67. The ad was paid for by Dwight Smith, Darrell Almond, Lisa Burris, Frisbee Herron, Banks Garrison, Peter Asciutto, Jim Misenheimer and Beverly Johnson.

“It’s unreal,” said Rep. Carl Ford, who is running for N.C. Senate against Democrat Arin Wilhelm. “I’ve been in politics a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this. You expect to work against Democrats — you don’t expect to have to work against your own party.”

Ford expressed concern on Facebook that Democrats and Republicans were passing out the card endorsing his opponent and Hudson’s opponent. Ford said he believed the Republicans backing his opponent were few. “This is a handful of people and most Republicans in Stanly County are working hard for me and all of the party’s candidates up and down the ballot,” he said.

Other candidates on the mutliparty card included Commissioner Bill Lawhon, a Republican, who is running unopposed.

“I was not asked to be put on the list,” said Lawhon. “I do not support all of the candidates that are on the list. I support Richard Hudson and Carl Ford.”

Asked about poll workers who were handing out the card, Lawhon said, “The Democrats that are working the polls are handing those out.”

Republican Wayne Sasser, who had visible support from Democrats in a bitter primary fight against incumbent Rep. Justin Burr, said he was not part of the group who put the card together.

“It came out in the newspaper and I didn’t know anything about it,” said Sasser. “I didn’t authorize it or ask for it or pay for it.”

Sasser said he was not supporting any Democrat candidates and agreed with Lawhon that the poll workers handing out the cards were mostly Democrats.

“My people are handing out Richard Hudson, Carl Ford and the Republican candidates,” said Sasser. “I’m supporting all the amendments and all of the Republican candidates and the quarter-cent sales tax.”

Asciutto, a former county commissioner and registered Republican, was one of the funders of the ad and the palm card.

“I am a former Republican county commissioner and basically there is a group of people who think we should vote for the best person — the best person, not the party,” said Asciutto. “Just because someone is a Republican doesn’t mean they are the best for Stanly County. Just because some is a Democrat doesn’t mean they are the best for Stanly County.”

Asciutto is backing Frank McNeill, a Democrat, against Hudson in a race that could put the Democrats back in the majority in the U.S. House.

When asked if he supported the Democrats taking back control of the U.S. House, Asciutto responded, “It wouldn’t bother me if they did, at this point. In my personal opinion, Frank McNeill is better for Stanly County than Richard Hudson.” He added, “We have checks and balances, and a divided government wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Johnson, a Democrat, was also part of the group that put the ads and palm card together. She says she is backing Republicans if she feels they will be best for Stanly County.

“I went to forums where these candidates spoke, and they are willing to reach across party lines,” said Johnson.

Like Asciutto, Johnson is aware that her support for a Republican could mean her party loses out on control of a legislative body. In this case, Democrats are making a push to take control of the N.C. House. Johnson said she supported Sasser on the card which meant she was not endorsing Webster, the Democrat.

“Hopefully he is intelligent enough that he will think through the issues,” she said of Sasser. “Right now, he’s following the Republican Party, but hopefully he’s willing to think through the issues.”

Johnson said she disagreed with Sasser on the constitutional amendments, except the victim’s rights amendment, and agreed with him on the opioid epidemic.

“Sometimes you have to give a little to take a little,” she said.

Johnson said she is working with Republicans and Democrats to hand out the bipartisan card, but said she liked what she heard from Webster, who is challenging Sasser.

“I was impressed with her and she did a good job at the forums,” said Johnson. “I’m not going to say I didn’t vote for her.”