GOP of­fice in N. Carolina opens af­ter fire­bomb­ing

Staff sets up ta­bles out­side build­ing to re­sume work

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Jonathan Drew

HILLS­BOR­OUGH, N.C. — In­ves­ti­ga­tors combed through shards of glass, looked for residue of flammable ac­cel­er­ant and tried to nar­row down the overnight hours when some­one torched a lo­cal Re­pub­li­can Party of­fice by throw­ing a flammable de­vice through a win­dow.

Hills­bor­ough Mayor Tom Stevens said he wasn’t aware of any sur­veil­lance footage from the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, and the of­fice sits where there wouldn’t nor­mally be foot traf­fic late at night — in a decades-old re­tail com­plex that backs up to a wooded area and is set back from a main road.

A bottle filled with flammable liq­uid was thrown through a win­dow of the Orange County Re­pub­li­can Party head­quar­ters early Sun­day, dam­ag­ing the in­te­rior be­fore burn­ing out, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. Some­one also spray-painted “Nazi Repub­li­cans leave town or else” on a nearby wall. The of­fice was empty, and no one was in­jured.

Lo­cal party of­fi­cials re­opened a makeshift op­er­a­tion on fold­ing ta­bles out­side the of­fice Mon­day while uni­formed po­lice looked on. Plain­clothes in­ves­ti­ga­tors looked for ev­i­dence at the scene as state, lo­cal and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors di­vided up leads.

The­graf­fiti and rem­nants of the fire were dis­cov­ered Sun­day morn­ing by 68year-old Bob­bie Sparrow, whose Bal­loons Above Orange shop is next to the GOP head­quar­ters. She came to feed stray cats be­fore church when she no­ticed the graf­fiti.

“I saw the hate in it. And The Orange County Re­pub­li­can head­quar­ters in Hills­bor­ough, N.C., was left charred af­ter some­one threw a bottle of flammable liq­uid through a win­dow early Sun­day. the only rea­son they used the side of my build­ing, be­cause it was a blank can­vas for a mes­sage to the Re­pub­li­can Party peo­ple,” she said. “I picked up my cell­phone and called 911 and told them some­one needed to get here im­me­di­ately.”

Lost in the fire were 2,000 sam­ple bal­lots for lo­cal Repub­li­cans, dozens of yard signs that were melted and ban­ners for events that were ru­ined by soot, said county GOP Chair­man Daniel Ash­ley.

The vi­o­lent act in the key bat­tle­ground state has been con­demned by pub­lic fig­ures across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Atweet from Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton on Sun­day said the at­tack “is hor­rific and un­ac­cept­able. Very grate­ful that every­one is safe.”

An­hour later, Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump tweeted: “An­i­mals rep­re­sent­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton and Dems in North Carolina just fire­bombed our of­fice in Orange County be­cause we are win­ning.”

North Carolina’s Re­pub­li­can Gov. Pat McCrory and his Demo­cratic chal­lenger, state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Roy Cooper, both de­scribed the vi­o­lence as a threat to democ­racy.

Democrats joined a cam­paign to raise $10,000 to re­open the GOP of­fice, meet­ing the goal in less than 40 min­utes and “show­ing that Amer­i­cans are thirsty for ci­vil­ity and de­cency,” wrote the Go­FundMe drive’s cre­ator, David Wein­berger, a re­searcher at Har­vard Univer­sity.

“It’s a great ges­ture. We ap­pre­ci­ate it a lot, but I don’t know how much of that we’re go­ing to get to use be­cause of the cam­paign laws,” Ash­ley said.

Re­pub­li­can of­fices around the state are re­ex­am­in­ing their se­cu­rity, state GOP Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dal­las Wood­house said.

Stevens, mayor of the town about 40 miles north­west of Raleigh, said the act doesn’t rep­re­sent the char­ac­ter of Orange County, which also includes Chapel Hill and the Univer­sity of North Carolina cam­pus. Reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans 3-1 in the county.

Blake Halsey, a 21-yearold col­lege stu­dent who vol­un­teers at the Orange County GOP of­fice, an­swered calls Mon­day at a fold­ing ta­ble out­side the shat­tered front win­dow. He grew up in the area and de­scribed the town as a “melt­ing pot” for all po­lit­i­cal views.

JONATHAN DREW/AP

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