John Deem.JPG

John Deem

Did Bob Rucho insult a female opponent last Thursday during a Republican forum for N.C. Senate District 34?

The longtime senator from Mecklenburg County, who rented an apartment in Mooresville the day before filing for the election, says no, as have many of his supporters.

Candidate Vickie Sawyer and her supporters say there’s no doubt that the comments were aimed at her.

As I noted in a column Sunday, I didn’t attend the event at the Statesville Hilton Garden Inn, but I relied on the recollections of several people who did. That’s no longer necessary.

I listened to a recording Tuesday of Rucho’s closing statement at the event. Here are the comments in question:

“This shouldn’t be a beauty contest,” he told the audience of more than 100 in describing what the May 8 GOP primary and November general election should be about. “You don’t vote for someone because of that.”

Audience members can be heard reacting immediately, with some groaning, some laughing and others just saying, “Wow.” There’s little doubt that those folks thought Rucho was referring to Sawyer (an observation confirmed by several people who were there).

If he wasn’t taking a shot at Sawyer, an Iredell County Planning Board member and treasurer of the Iredell County Republican Party, he had the opportunity to say so.

He never did.

“It’s the same old bigoted, chauvinistic, old-school way of thinking,” Sawyer told me the day after the event.

If that wasn’t the case, Rucho didn’t do much to convince folks otherwise, which means he must not have been too concerned about the characterization either way.

No offense to them, but if A.J. Daoud and Bill Howell were the only other candidates joining Rucho on the primary ballot, do you think he would have glanced down the table at his opponents and worried that the election would turn into a beauty contest?

John Deem is news editor at the Record & Landmark.

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