• 73°

Ex- GOP lawmaker charged with assaulting poll worker

By Bryan Anderson
Associated Press/Report for America

RALEIGH — A former North Carolina Republican lawmaker who was observing an early voting site in Wake Forest on behalf of his party was charged Friday with a Class 3 misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a poll worker.

Gary Pendleton, a 73-year-old former state House lawmaker and former Wake County commissioner, confirmed the charge. He said he had pushed an early voting official who he says blocked his pathway to enter the polling site around 7:30 a.m.

At the direction of his county party, Pendleton said he had sought to gain access to the site an hour before the polls opened at 8 a.m. to make sure no fraudulent voting activities were taking place. He said he was met by a security guard who refused him entrance.

When he asked for a supervisor to let him in, the supervisor instructed him that he’d have to wait outside. Frustrated with the experience, Pendleton tried to re-enter about 20 minutes later, where he was again refused entry by the same elections official.

“He was on one side, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just go around you,'” Pendleton said. “So I went around, he jumped over in front of me about 3 feet (away) mouth to mouth. I pushed him back because I don’t want to get COVID-19.”

Gary Sims, Wake County’s elections director, and Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, confirmed the incident had taken place. Sims said poll workers should never be faced with violence.

“Nobody comes to work expecting to be assaulted,” Sims said.

Law enforcement arrived after the polls opened and cited Pendleton with the Class 3 misdemeanor. He then left the early voting site.

Pendleton said the officers who cited him compared his violation to “hunting without a hunting license.” The Wake County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident.

Pendleton will not be permitted to serve as a poll observer for the rest of this election cycle, Gannon said. He plans to appeal the assault charge in court.

The North Carolina Republican Party condemned Pendleton’s actions and expressed apologies on his behalf.

“Our training specifically prohibits any attempt to obstruct a voter or inhibit the election process,” said a statement from the party’s press secretary, Tim Wigginton. “Gary Pendleton violated our policy with his actions today, and he will no longer be volunteering. He acknowledges his mistake and apologizes for his action.”

Pendleton minimized his actions, insisting he did not shove the worker to the ground and was incapable of causing physical harm to the assistant supervisor who had denied him entry.

“I’m a 73-year-old partially disabled veteran,” Pendleton said. “This guy was about 50. I don’t think I could’ve done much damage to him.”

Pendleton said he monitored a different early voting site in Wake County on Thursday, where he was granted access before the polls opened at 8 a.m. When he was denied access to the Wake Forest location on Friday, he was confused by the inconsistency and felt he had been deliberately mistreated because of his political party.

“This is a Democrat-Republican thing, and I’m probably one of the most well-known Republicans in the county,” Pendleton said.

Sims confirmed some poll observers had been wrongfully permitted to enter early-voting facilities on Thursday before voting began at 8 a.m. He said he informed those sites that workers should not let people into buildings before 8 a.m. going forward.

Sims said poll observers are allowed to monitor voting activities but not the site meetings, time sheet completion and turning on of the machines, which takes place before the doors open.

“The purpose of an observer is to observe the voting,” Sims said.

He also pushed back against allegations of poll workers exhibiting a bias favoring Democrats.

“That is not a fair statement,” Sims said of Pendleton’s claims. “I understand that may be a defensive statement, but that’s not a fair statement.”

Comments

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death No. 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges

Local

Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs

Columns

Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class

Sports

Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow

Nation/World

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

Nation/World

Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack

News

NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line