Republican Wake County commissioners, some of whom previously endorsed Chris Malone for state House, balked Wednesday when asked to reaffirm their support for him – days after reports emerged that Malone and fellow school board member Debra Goldman were involved in a rift, and possibly a relationship.
“I know I endorsed him in the past,” said Phil Matthews, vice chairman of the commissioners. “But, I have not voted yet and am going to wait and see how things go before I take things further.”
A copy of a Cary police report obtained by The News & Observer last week showed that Goldman named Malone a suspect in the burglary of $130,000 worth of jewelry, cash and coins from her home in 2010. The report also quoted Malone, who was dropped as a suspect, as saying he and Goldman had a “very heated” physical relationship. Goldman said she rebuffed Malone’s advances. Both are married.
Goldman, a Cary Republican, is running for state auditor. Malone, a Wake Forest Republican, is running for state House in District 35 against Lori Millberg, a Democrat from Wendell.
On Wednesday, Matthews and two of the four GOP commissioners declined to endorse Malone outright. When contacted by phone, commissioners chairman Paul Coble and commissioner Tony Gurley declined to give direct answers to the question: “Do you support Chris Malone?”
“I support Republicans in their races,” Gurley said, declining to comment on Malone’s race. Coble said the situation is “complicated.”
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison also wouldn’t comment, though he had joined Coble and Matthews in holding a September fundraiser for Malone in Wake Forest.
Joe Bryan was the only Republican commissioner to confirm his support for Malone. “I already cast my vote, so it’s already a done deal,” he said. “I don’t regret it. ... In the end, I think he’ll be a more effective legislator.”
Meanwhile, Republicans in Wake Forest and Rolesville sought to clarify their positions on Malone.
In an April candidates’ questionnaire, Malone said he’d been endorsed by “all Wake Forest and Rolesville Republican commissioners.”
Yet, Wake Forest commissioner Zachary Donahue and Rolesville commissioner Frank Hodge in interviews on Wednesday denied that they ever endorsed Malone. Donahue said he wasn’t aware the candidate was touting his support.
“My stance has always been that I’ve never endorsed anybody,” Donahue said.
Hodge said: “Millberg has had my support since Day One.”
Malone did not return a call seeking comment but texted a reporter to say Donahue had, in fact, previously endorsed him.
Republican Rolesville commissioner Gil Hartis declined to comment on Malone. Other Republican board members in Wake Forest and Rolesville could not be reached for comment.
‘His goose is cooked’
John Davis, a GOP-leaning political analyst, on Monday sent a mass email saying Malone’s “goose is cooked” because of his ties to Goldman.
“If you like to bet on winners, you will find a ‘Contribute’ button (on Lori Millberg’s home page),” Davis wrote.
Nevertheless, Malone has vowed to stay in the race, and he was at the Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest on Wednesday shaking hands with constituents there to vote early.
Malone said last week he has “moved past” Goldman’s allegations.
Voters at the Wake Forest polls had mixed reactions to the scandal. Cathy Bradley, a retired Wake County teacher who said she usually votes Democrat, says she considered Malone.
“I never thought Goldman was qualified, but Malone could have won my vote when I looked into his records,” Bradley said. “But we can’t have people like that running the state.”
Another woman, who wouldn’t share her name, said that the story was part of a “smear campaign” by Malone’s political opponents and The News & Observer.
But one liberal advocacy group seeks to make sure voters know about the issue.
Common Sense Matters initiated a robocall to voters on Tuesday that mentioned the scandal and urged them to vote against Malone.
“With these kinds of distractions, it’s no wonder the schools screwed up student assignment plans and the bus schedule,” the phone call says. “Don’t reward Malone’s unprofessional behavior by sending him to the state legislature. Vote against Malone on November 6th.”
Common Sense Matters declined to comment about the recording.
Staff Writer Austin Baird contributed to this report.