The North Carolina GOP is doing everything it can to sink Tim D'Annunzio's
bid to win the Republican nomination for the 8th
District U.S. congressional race. State leaders -- with Washington looking over their shoulder -- have backed away from him after published reports about the controversial candidate's views and past behavior.
But D'Annunzio, who faces a June 22 runoff with former sportscaster Harold Johnson
, is fighting back. In response to N.C. GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer's judgment that D'Annunzio was "unfit for public office at any level," the candidate this week called on Fetzer to resign
. "Chairman Fetzer broke the Plan of Organization of the Republican Party by speaking against my candidacy," he said, as reported in The Charlotte Observer.
An earlier Observer story
had relied on court documents from a contentious 1995 divorce and a subsequent child-custody filing that portrayed D'Annunzio as "a self-described religious zealot" who once called the U.S. government the Antichrist and told his ex-wife that he'd found the Ark of the Covenant. D'Annunzio countered that "the allegations are unsubstantiated and come from second-hand sources." (Several of his now-grown children work with him.)
On his blog, "Christ's War,"
D'Annunzio has acknowledged teenage arrests and past drug use. But the millionaire businessman says conversion changed him and his problems are in the past. He wrote: "Remember, the news media and the attackers take a small bit of something said or done, adds their own context and then uses their created context to define and demonize people they dislike or disagree with. When the bits of reality are put into their proper context the reality is nothing close to the attacker's creation."
"I know that I have been Anointed by God to be part of His plan to save the world," he writes. "This is nothing different than every Christian is supposed to believe. We all have a mission."
Despite D'Annunzio's first-place finish in a May 4 primary and his support by state Tea Party groups, the party establishment -- including former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes -- has lined up behind Johnson. "What [D'Annunzio] could do to the party as our nominee is secondary in my view to what he could do to the country if he got elected," Fetzer said in the Observer. "If he got elected, for crying out loud, that would be a disaster."
On his website, D'Annunzio's endorsement list includes former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo and former NASCAR driver Lake Speed.
None of this was part of the GOP's plan. U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell
, a Democrat who beat Hayes to win in the conservative but swing district in 2008, was seen as vulnerable in November. The Blue Dog Democrat voted against health-care reform and survived a challenge from the left in the May 4 primary from former supporters. But if D'Annunzio holds on to win the primary, Republicans have already given Kissell ready-made quotes for his campaign. If Johnson prevails, there may be residual resentment from D'Annunzio supporters.
Meanwhile, D'Annunzio's national profile is only growing. It began during his primary campaign with his "machine-gun socials." (A $25 contribution got one a barbecue dinner, ammo to use at the shooting range where the fundraisers were held, and a raffle ticket to win an AR-15 assault rifle.)
It all adds up to a headline-making battle between D'Annunzio and a GOP establishment made skittish by early controversies involving Kentucky's Rand Paul
, and it shows no sign of fading.