Charles Francis, Democratic candidate for mayor in a November 7 runoff, has received a total of $20,600 in donations from former Republican state Senator Fred J. Smith, Smith's wife and two of his sons, campaign records show.
In an interview, Francis strongly disputed the relevance of the funds, which amounted to about 10 percent of his total donations from individuals.
Fred J. Smith has become part of a campaign controversy because he was a supporter of the 2012 anti-same-sex-marriage Amendment 1.
The donations from the Smith family arose from Francis’s longtime business association with Fred Smith, with whom he helped found North State Bank, Francis said. The donations do not reflect Francis's strong support of LGBT people and issues, he said.
Photo by Thomas Goldsmith
Mayoral candidate Charles Francis
analysis of more recent campaign reports shows that Francis also received $5,200 from Virginia R. Smith, Fred J. Smith's wife; $5,200 from his son Reid M. Smith; and $5,000 from his son Fred Julius Smith III, known as Jules.
An earlier donation of $5,200 by developer former legislator Smith entered into the decision of EqualityNC, an LGBTQ advocacy group to drop its endorsement of Francis, the organization said Monday.
A Democratic lawyer and banker, Francis faces incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane in the runoff. In the initial round of voting on October 10, McFarlane won about 48 percent of the vote but did not receive the majority she needed to avoid a runoff.
McFarlane's campaign declined to comment on the donations Wednesday.
Fred J. Smith was a primary backer of Amendment 1, an anti-same-sex-marriage state referendum item that passed in 2012, but was negated by a federal court in 2014.
In rescinding its endorsement, Equality NC cited Francis's campaigning for Smith—Francis says it was one appearance ten years ago—and donations to him by anti-LGBTQ donors. The group had previously endorsed both Francis and McFarlane.
The donations from Republicans including Smith, he said, are distractions from his message that McFarlane lacks leadership and a vision for the future of Raleigh.
“The media is distorting the importance of Republican and downplaying the widespread donations I have received from prominent Democrats," Francis said. "The fact that I can generate Republican support shows that I can generate support from people with different points of view."
Francis cited Democratic donors to his campaign including former U.S. Ambassador Jeanette W. Hyde, a longtime Democratic fundraiser; Everett Ward, former executive director of the state party; and Deborah Holder, a Raleigh Democrat who is the sister-in-law of Eric Holder, a U.S. attorney general under President Obama.
Francis said his one campaign appearance in support of Fred J. Smith came when the candidate for state Senate was trying to gain support from African-American voters in Johnston County.
"When I spoke on behalf of Fred at that event, it was him trying to reach out to a wider community," Francis said. "Fred has told me we do disagree on many issues. But he supports me for three reasons: character and competence and consistency."