On Saturday night, during a visit to Charlotte, top Obama administration official Kathleen Sebelius began her speech at the Human Rights Campaign gala with an apparent endorsement of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, one of at least five Democrats running for the party’s nomination.
It came amid her mentions of state and local politicians in the audience. “Your lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton, who needs to be the next governor of North Carolina, is in the house,” Sebelius told the crowd of almost 1,400 attending the fundraiser at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary made no mention of state Rep. Bill Faison, who has filed to run in the Democratic primary, or former U.S. Rep Bob Etheridge, who has said he’s also running. Two other lesser-known candidates -- Gary Dunn of Matthews and Gardenia Henley of Winston-Salem -- have also filed to run.
In her speech, Sebelius also recognized U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, both of whom attended the Saturday night fundraiser -- as did Dalton.
Sebelius was unavailable after her speech, so it was unclear whether she meant to endorse Dalton or whether she was just unaware that he has primary challengers. N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue, who has decided not to run for re-election, did not attend the Human Rights Campaign gala because she was attending National Governors Association meetings in Washington.
The Sebelius remark came days after Dalton appeared with Vice President Joe Biden at a community college event in Thomasville. The joint appearance also spurred discussion of whether the White House is playing favorites. Faison's campaign dismissed the suggestion, saying Dalton was merely a replacement for the absent Perdue.
--Tim Funk and John Frank