Democratic chairman won't seek additional term

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 08:33 PM

RALEIGH — The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party announced Wednesday that he won't seek another term after a year of ballot-box disappointments and internal turmoil related to a sexual harassment claim at headquarters involving two former employees.

Statesville attorney David Parker, who was elected to the post in January 2011, said just after Election Day that he hadn't decided whether he would seek another two-year term in February. But Parker said Wednesday in an interview that his plan had been to serve just one term and made it official in an email to party activists.

"I have enjoyed my two years of service to our state and to the Democratic Party," Parker wrote. "There is much work to be done on the vital issues of good government, public education and job creation in North Carolina and I look forward to continuing to work to better our state in the years to come."

The next chairman will be picked Feb. 2 in Durham by the party's executive committee, composed of several hundred members. Parker said he doubts he'll endorse a potential successor in the race. There are yet no publicly announced candidates.

Parker remained on the job even after Gov. Beverly Perdue, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and other elected leaders called on him to resign this past spring, when accusations surfaced against party executive director Jay Parmley by a male employee. Parmley resigned from his job but denied any sexual harassment.

The worker making the allegations, Adriadn Ortega, filed a federal complaint, arguing he was wrongly fired in November 2011 when he spoke up about Parmley. Ortega and the party ultimately reached a settlement that included a monetary payment.

Parker ultimately offered his resignation in May, but a majority of party regulars voted to decline to accept it, giving a political black eye to Dalton, the party's gubernatorial nominee. Parker remained at the job as the Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte in September and through the fall elections, but his visibility was low. The state Democratic Party also struggled to raise money for their candidates — a result some critics attribute to Parker's staying on the job.

It was a poor Election Day for Democrats as Republican Pat McCrory easily defeated Dalton for governor and the GOP expanded its majorities in the Legislature. North Carolina also was the only battleground state that President Barack Obama lost in his successful re-election campaign, four years after narrowly winning the state's electoral votes.

Parker said Wednesday that he's proud of work he did to streamline the party to instill "party discipline" during his tenure but doesn't believe the voluntary chairman's position is authoritative enough to leave a legacy.

"We got a lot of work done," he said. Parker said he also increased transparency within the party, although many who sought his resignation felt they were kept out of the loop about the problems at headquarters.

Parker defended his handling of the allegations. He said he followed the advice of the party's attorney but couldn't discuss the confidential settlement. Ortega sued Parker and the party in June based on what Parker said at an April news conference. The case is pending.