Black lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly say the Republican leadership is attacking and showing a lack of respect for African Americans.
"Since taking control of the General Assembly last November, Republicans have shown little compassion on issues relating to African Americans in North Carolina," said Democratic state Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. in a statement.
The carefully worded -- but nonetheless blunt -- statement from the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus came in a press release Thursday, hours after the Senate overrode the governor's veto of the Racial Justice Act and rumors swirled about a Republican effort to push through a law requiring voters to show ID at the polls. It also highlights budget cuts to education.
The legislation is just the start, argued McKissick, who said Republicans are disempowering black leaders in state agencies and called the treatment of African American leaders "alarming."
In particular, he highlighted the forced resignation of Marilyn Chism, the head of the General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division "for no other reason than to flex their political muscle." McKissick also noted the treatment of Lynn Holmes, an assistant commerce secretary, who state Sen. Bob Rucho called her "embarrassing" and "incompetent." Holmes was subpoenaed by the legislature and asked to testify under oath at a committee meeting this week.
"The Republicans treatment of these employees and their legislation show an overall disinterest and lack of respect for black people in North Carolina," McKissick said in the statement. "The question is, when are they going to stop attacking black North Carolinians and focus on job creation and getting this economy moving?"
The office of House Speaker Thom Tillis didn't respond to requests for comment. Senate GOP leader Phil Berger's spokesman said the claims didn't dignify a response.
Rucho, a Charlotte-area Republican, defended his tough questioning of Holmes as the state tries to pay down a debt to the federal government for unemployment benefits.
As for the broad accusations, Rucho said "that accusation doesn't even deserve an answer it's so far from every truth."
"We are trying to help every citizen of this state," he added. "It's such an absurd statement."