NC House member, Democrat disagree on conversation

Mar. 14, 2014 @ 01:25 PM

A Republican North Carolina state representative says he tried to persuade a Democratic rival to withdraw before candidate filing ended last month but never suggested getting a state job for his potential challenger if he got out of the race.

Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, and Democratic candidate Brian Turner said they met at an Asheville restaurant a few days before the filing deadline, along with a Republican Buncombe County commissioner. They said that Moffitt, who has aspirations to become the House speaker in 2015, had asked that Turner stand aside.

In media interviews this week, Turner, a former UNC-Asheville administrator with television production experience, said he came away from the meeting with the impression that Moffitt would help him land the job to become UNC-TV's next leader if he got out of the race.

"He said that it was not my turn yet and that he would be done with his work in another four years or so and then I could have the seat," Turner said. "And then, he goes, in the interim you could do something else constructive, like run UNC-TV." Turner said he declined to leave the race. The two are the only candidates in the race in the 116th House District.

Moffitt said Thursday the idea he offered any such agreement was "categorically false," adding he has no role in the UNC-TV post: "It would be easier for me to help him become the queen of Spain, versus getting that job."

"I was flattering him by saying with that great background, you ought to see if you could become the president of UNC-TV," Moffitt said. "I wasn't offering him a job."

Tom Howe, UNC-TV's director and general manager for more than 20 years, retired last month.

David King, the county commissioner who attended and brokered the meeting, said there was "there was no job offer, there was no bribe."

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, is running for the U.S. Senate and isn't seeking re-election to the legislature. As for the speaker's job, Moffitt, in his second House term, said he told Turner having a November opponent could hurt his chances for the post because it would hinder his ability to travel to support other GOP candidates.

Turner also said he took as threatening Moffitt's comments that outside political campaigns Moffitt has no control over could run ads that destroy him and his family's reputation. Moffitt said he was only educating a political newcomer about what he could expect in a coming campaign, citing his own negative experiences in his campaigns. Both men have children.

King described the meeting as "a very human story about two dads sitting in a room."