State Speaker: I will support Rep. Saine
by Courtney Price
N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis said this week that he continues to support Rep. Jason Saine despite accusations from opponent Jim Klein that Saine unethically distributed an unauthorized endorsement letter.
Klein contacted Tillis late last week after he received a letter signed by Tillis endorsing Saine and urging voters to contribute to his campaign. Klein and Saine, both of Denver, face off in the primary for N.C. House District 97 on Tuesday, May 8. Iron Station resident Charles Newman will also appear on the ballot.
Tillis said he did not authorize that letter, but it did come from his office.
“This (letter) was not authorized by me. This is the first time I have seen it. The caucus has my authorization to use my letterhead in non-contested primaries, but this should not have happened,” Tillis said in an email to Klein.
Saine said a member of his fundraising staff requested the letter, which was approved by Tillis’ staff.
“Klein is completely overreaching and is armed with a very small sliver of fact,” Saine said.
But Klein said Saine’s campaign distributed the “unauthorized and misleading letter,” and he attempted to show that Saine’s campaign intentionally tried to deceive voters.
“My opponent declared on several occasions that… he was working with Speaker Tillis’ office to arrange a fund-raising endorsement visit by Speaker Tillis on behalf of my opponent (and that) county Republicans would be receiving a letter of endorsement from Speaker Tillis on behalf of my opponent,” Klein wrote Saturday, April 28. “It is abundantly clear… that each declaration lacks merit or credibility.”
Tillis reported Sunday, April 29, that the letter was an “honest, administrative error,” and that a member of his staff approved it mistakenly.
“I also offered to issue a public statement acknowledging the error,” Tillis wrote in a second, formal endorsement letter. “Unfortunately, it appears Mr. Klein has chosen to exploit an honest mistake for his own benefit and I must oppose this.
“I fully endorse and support Rep. Saine in his campaign for the N.C. House of Representatives,” Tills wrote.
Saine said he was “proud” to have the formal endorsement, and that Klein “ostracized himself before ever taking office.”
Klein said Thursday, May 3, he was disappointed by Tillis’ endorsement, but still felt he could win the seat.
“There are still some lingering questions,” Klein said, “but it’s not going to do me much good (to pursue those questions) in Raleigh if I win.”