Mac Butner, Republican stalwart and lightning rod for criticism, dies

Published 2:07 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Local Republican and real estate broker Mac Butner died Wednesday. He was 63.

The cause of death was unclear on Wednesday afternoon. He died at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Butner was well known for his activism in the Rowan County Republican Party. He often orchestrated fundraising and political campaigns. Recently, Butner became a lightning rod for criticism after making comments on Facebook about African-Americans, illegal immigrants and Moral Monday Movement protesters.

Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Stephen Kidd offered a few kinds words about Butner after hearing of his passing.

“Mac Butner’s presence will be sorely missed,” Kidd said. “Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with his family Julia, Laura and Wade.”

One of Butner’s earliest forays into politics came in 1970, when he volunteered to serve as the campaign manager for Phil Kirk, who was running for state senate at the time.

“He was a tenacious and hard worker and was very mature for his age,” said Kirk, who now lives in Raleigh.

Even after Butner was no longer Kirk’s campaign manager, the pair kept in touch. Butner became more conservative and more outspoken as he grew older, Kirk said.

Former County Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides, a Republican, called Butner “a true conservative.”

“Mac was never blessed with being elected to public office, but he was instrumental behind the scenes in helping many who were,” Sides said. “Mac was sometimes misunderstood, but he was a kind and compassionate man who loved God, country and his fellow man. I will miss his dry wit and his company.”

In recent years, Mac helped organize an effort to name a section of Faith Road for legendary public servant Eugene McCombs. He also served on the Housing Board and briefly was chairman of the Rowan County Board of Elections.

In the latter two positions, Butner drew the ire of many for racially-tinged comments on Facebook.

“Gee they are all black,” Butner said in a 2014 post about the Moral Monday Movement. “I guess the white folk could not get off because they were too busy working being productive good citizens.”

After the comments made news across the state, Butner decided not to reapply for the Rowan County Housing Board. Roughly one year later, he would be appointed to the Rowan County Board of Elections and picked as its chairman.

His appointment was called a clerical error, and the State Board of Elections would remove Butner from the local board one year later because of past social media comments. It was a first-of-its-kind decision.

Butner’s earlier political endeavors would include campaigns for a number of local and state offices.

He had a business degree from Catawba College and was a licensed real estate broker for much of his life.

This story will be updated.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246