Someone in the Moore County Republican Men’s Club has quite a sense of humor.
The membership and the who’s-who of the county GOP establishment turned out in force to hear from the man most see as the next governor of North Carolina. As expected, party bigwigs clamored for the best seats in the House. County commissioner Nick Picerno, on the ballot for reelection in November, won a seat at the table with Pat McCrory.
Picerno’s colleague on the board, chairman Larry Caddell, won a less than desirable seating arrangement. Caddell was seated with two guys — George Little and commissioner Tim Lea — who he is reportedly — um, let’s say — on the outs with.
A distant observer of the trio, also in the room for Mayor Pat’s speech, joked that this trio looked like “a reunion of old friends.” Another source, seated a lot closer to the action, threw in their two cents:
“You could cut the tension with a knife. Tim looked genuinely scared to have Larry at the table. Tim looked like he was hiding behind his wife. Larry and Tim muttered a quick hello. That was it. Larry spent most of the time talking with Tim’s wife, who is actually a very nice lady. I think Tim was lucky his wife was there. She kept the peace. If she had not been there, I think there would have been a lot more colorful language flying around the table.”
Relations between Lea and Caddell have worsened recently over a kerfluffle instigated by Lea about some real estate in Carthage. The parcel in question is owned by the county, and adjacent to the county war memorial. Lea got the ball rolling by discussing — in open session — an inquiry by a developer about purchasing the property to construct a restaurant.
Lea started ranting about his colleagues trying to desecrate the war memorial by selling the property to a restaurant developer. (Never mind that, just a few years ago, Lea championed the idea of building a multi-story county office building on the same piece of property.) Allies of Lea drove a gossip campaign in the community suggesting that Caddell and the developer had a corrupt insider’s deal worked out. Caddell had to produce letters from the restaurant’s corporate offices that (1) separated gossip from fact, (2) cleared Caddell of any allegations of unethical behavior, and (3) threatened legal action if the gossip continued.
Lea is retiring from the board this year. On his way out, he appears to be burning every one of his bridges. Lea has dropped hints of future runs for other offices. The targets of some of his bridge-burning will likely relish an opportunity for payback should Lea’s name appear on another ballot.