David Weinberger, co-director of the Library Innovation Lab at Harvard University, and several other Democrats and independents launched a crowd-funding campaign Monday that raised more than $13,000 to help the Orange County Republican office recover after the weekend attack.
“A friend, Zeynep Tufekci, tweeted that the Democrats ought to offer the displaced Republicans office space,” Weinberger told AMI Newswire. “A few of us started kicking around ideas … and after a couple of hours of group emailing, we had started a GoFundMe campaign.”
Weinberger’s group hopes that Republicans in Hillsborough -- which is about 12 miles outside of Chapel Hill -- will reopen an office as soon as possible.
“These are not good for our democracy,” Weinberger said. “Despite our deep disagreements with Republicans on matters of policy, we believe that the vast majority of Americans of all parties treasure the democratic process and want to see it preserved. So, we thought we would let people make a gesture to express their commitment to the democracy that is absolutely central to the America we all love.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton agreed. “The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable,” she tweeted on Sunday. “Very grateful that everyone is safe.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump was a little less sanguine. “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning,” Trump said on Twitter over the weekend.
North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory said Monday, “This is not an act of vandalism. It’s an assault on our democracy.”
Daniel Ashley, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, told AMI that he appreciated all the goodwill people have shown since an incendiary device through an office window late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, starting a fire that apparently burned itself out. No one was injured.
Ashley was uncertain Monday whether GOP officials could accept the crowd-funding support because North Carolina election laws don’t allow anonymous donations, but he said staff and volunteers would be moving into a new office nearby soon.
“We’re working on it,” Weinberger said when asked whether the crowd-funding money would eventually reach North Carolina GOP officials. “The law is quite rigorous and not designed for this situation.”
Ashley said Orange County GOP personnel opened for business Monday and that everyone was upbeat even as they conducted business outside the charred office.“We’re out front under the overhang operating on a beautiful day,” he said.
The vandals also painted a message on a nearby wall that said, “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” The Hillsborough Police Department is investigating the incident, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The Secret Service is also supporting the investigation.
A police report put the damage toll at $5,000, but a final damage tally has not been made.
Hillsborough is the county seat of Orange county, where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. Although Mitt Romney carried the state in 2012, the county voted for President Obama by a margin of 70.4 percent to 28.2 percent.
North Carolina politics has been especially contentious since 2010 when Republicans won control of both chambers of the legislature for the first time since the 19th century. They have passed a series of bills, including voter ID laws and HB2 -- requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex rather than their gender identity -- which have angered many Democrats.
North Carolina has also been the scene of frequent "Moral Monday" protests against the legislature, spearheaded by the state chapter of the NAACP.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said all Americans should be able to express their political opinions without fear of their personal safety.
“We will be requesting additional security at all Republican Party offices and events between now and Election Day to ensure the safety of our activists, volunteers and supporters,” Woodhouse said. “We will not be deterred by this hate crime.”
No official absentee ballots filled out by voters were destroyed in the firebombing, he said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the GOP office can do so at the group’s website, Orangencgop.org.