By refusing to endorse the congressman and threatening to support a write-in candidacy, the 8th District Black Leadership Caucus PAC turned up the heat on Representative Larry Kissell in a sweltering Hamlet meeting room Thursday.
Kissell, who said in a recent interview that he would not endorse President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election, now finds himself the target of criticism from black Democrats saying that they are “fed up with his blue dog ways.”
Nearly fifty PAC supporters and members of the political establishments in each of the counties in Kissell’s district attended the press conference, and many took a turn at slamming the Congressman.
If their harsh words are any indication, Kissell’s comments in the press and his decision not to support the Affordable Health Care Act — the legislative centerpiece of the President’s re-election campaign — may have stirred up a hornets nest in his own party.
8th District Democratic Party Chair June Mabry urged patience at the meeting, suggesting that some subtleties of Kissell’s comments to the press have not been reflected in recent reporting.
Mabry said that she was told by Kissell Chief of Staff Leanne Powell, who was present at the interview during which Kissell is reported to have said that he would not be endorsing Obama, that Kissell actually said that he “doesn’t endorse anyone, but that he will be voting for president Obama.”
Attempting to be a voice of moderation at the downtown Hamlet meeting, Mabry encouraged those in attendance to withhold judgment until Kissell gets a chance to explain himself.
“But there’s only one person that can tell you that, and it’s not me,” said Mabry who “is working with (Kissell’s) scheduler” to set a meeting with the Representative.
“I called again today and they did not get a schedule to me, and I will continue calling him every day because quite frankly he made the statement to the press and he needs to answer you about what that statement was,” Mabry continued.
Mabry said that the 8th District will release a statement once its executive committee has had a chance to convene with Kissell and formally discuss the matter.
Nearly a dozen PAC members from the district took turns bashing Kissell, with some even speculating that the Representative may be a “plant from the Republican party.”
“We’ve worked with him and tolerated (Kissell) for four years … and now we need to decide if we want to draft somebody (for a write-in candidacy),” said North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus Chairman and District 8 PAC press representative Walter Rogers.
Rogers, who had similarly negative words for Kissell earlier in the week, said that a final decision on whether the caucus and PAC will support a write-in candidacy has not yet been made.
“It is seriously being considered,” said Rogers, who hosted a conference call from representatives of nine counties in Kissell’s district earlier in the week.
The result of that call was a consensus press release criticizing Kissell’s comments and officially withdrawing support of the Congressman’s candidacy.
“The NCBLC PAC has voted not to endorse or support Mr. Kissell in his bid for re-election,” read the release.
Scotland County Commissioner John Alford offered a pointed criticism of Kissell during the conference, noting that he has “met with and had meals with Kissell several times.”
“I won’t be in his presence again,” declared Alford, adding that Kissell was only elected after “riding on Obama’s coattails in the last election.”
“Kissell cannot be trusted as a Democrat, and he has shown his true colors now,” Alford concluded.
At one point PAC chairman P.E. Bazemore acknowledged both the real and metaphorical heat in the room by asking attendees whether they thought “it was hot in here because of the sun or because of what it is we are here to discuss.”
Bazemore also acknowledged having received scores of phone calls from people both in and out of the district regarding Kissell’s recent comments.
“I haven’t been able to sit down and eat breakfast yet,” joked Bazemore. “My phone has been ringing continuously.”
Bazemore hopes that the PAC’s refusal to support the incumbent Kissell “will let him know that we will not be misrepresented this way.”
Bazemore was also displeased with the timing of Kissell’s announcement that he will not support the president, saying that “in the ninth hour he has come out and not supported us.”
The rebuke of Kissell’s comments and voting record should go beyond press releases in the mind of Antonio Blue, Chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.
“There should be consequences for what your actions, and now we should figure out what the consequences and repercussions will be for his actions,” said Blue. “Kissell has crossed the line on so many issues.”