NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Some New Hanover County commissioners are upset about an invitation that recently came out for a political fundraiser for two county commission candidates.
Commissioner Woody White and Patricia Kusek are running in the November election for three available commission seats. Challengers include current Commissioner Jonathan Barfield. Commission Chair Beth Dawson was also running for reelection but lost her bid in the primary.
White and Kusek held a fundraiser last week and the invitation for that fundraiser listed dozens of sponsors, co-sponsors, and hosts. Many of them are prominent members of the community.
But Dawson and Barfield were upset to see Tom Fetzer's name on the list of hosts. He's a well know Republican who previously served as mayor of Raleigh and as the Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
Currently, Fetzer is retained as a lobbyist for New Hanover County. That's why Commissioners Dawson and Barfield were upset to see his name on this list of people openly endorsing two of their political opponents.
"When we expressed our concern to our county manager, he was unaware of it," Dawson explained.
Dawson says the county reached out to Fetzer, who said he was not aware his name was on the list, and no one had asked his permission or received his authorization to put his name on the list of hosts. Dawson said Fetzer assured them he had not given any money to those candidates, which she says was then confirmed by campaign finance reports.
"In politics, I know how those things can happen, but in the case of Fetzer, a lot of people know and respect him and [his endorsement] carries a lot of weight," Dawson said.
Fetzer's name was removed from an updated version of the invitation.
"I've known Tom a long time. I'm convinced he truly did not know," Dawson told WECT. "I accepted his apology and thanked him for his service to New Hanover County." Dawson says she doesn't blame Fetzer but feels the White campaign has some explaining to do.
Commissioner White told us that Fetzer's name appeared as a supporter for a prior event when White ran for Congress. He says the inadvertent inclusion of Fetzer on the list of hosts for his county commission campaign fundraiser was missed during a final review of the invitation.
"I have not asked him to support me in this cycle because he has a formal role with our County," White explained.
Fetzer is a registered lobbyist. Dawson says he has represented New Hanover County's interests in Raleigh on a number of issues, including lobbying for sustainable funding for beach nourishment, film, and historic preservation.