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Knives come out in GOP primary for Congress

The knives are out in the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District.


Joey Osborne, a businessman from Hickory and one of 11 Republicans seeking the nomination for the open seat, called on Lynda Bennett to drop out of the race, saying her "campaign missteps have rendered her unelectable." If she were to win the nomination, Osborne said, she would put what's regarded as a safe Republican seat in jeopardy.

Osborne's statement, issued to news media Tuesday morning, was the harshest public criticism yet of Bennett, who has drawn scrutiny for her early entry into the race — just hours after U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows announced that he would not seek re-election — a recording at a Republican meeting in which she declared herself a staunch "Never Trumper" and her campaign's creation of a flier listing her as the “Official Conservative Ballot Committee” choice.
“Lynda Bennett has made herself unelectable in a General Election against any qualified Democrat opponent,” Osborne said in the news release. “There is nothing more important than making sure we elect a Republican who will be able to work with President Trump and help regain leadership in Congress. Lynda Bennett’s campaign missteps have rendered her unelectable and now she is only taking votes away from good Republican candidates.”

Bennett did not immediately respond to a call from the Hendersonville Lightning seeking reaction to Osborne's charges. A Maggie Valley real estate agent, Bennett got a major boost in the crowded primary when Meadows endorsed her. She also has touted the endorsement of Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan and conservative PACs.

The Smoky Mountain News reported last week that the “Official Conservative Ballot Committee” flier was tied to a consultant who had been paid more than $40,000 by the Bennett campaign. The flier lacks a required Federal Election Commission disclaimer and may violate other FEC rules with regard to who paid for and authorized the contents, the Smoky Mountain News reported.

"It is both unethical and illegal," Osborne said. "Should she be elected, she would likely face a House ethics investigation and possible sanctions. We cannot have a Republican nominee with these violations and ethics issues hanging over their head. This seat is too important. Republicans and North Carolinians can’t suffer through another campaign where the results are questioned because of the lack of oversight a candidate has over their paid consultants.”

“Our conversations with several party officials have led us to a reasonable belief that Lynda Bennett does not give us the best chance to win in November. I think true leadership steps up to the plate and voices what we believe to be true. That is why I am publicly calling on Lynda Bennett to drop out of the race and allow a more qualified candidate to move forward.”

In the Never Trump tape, which the Hendersonville Lightning reported on Feb. 2, Bennett, a strong Ted Cruz supporter before Trump's nomination, tells fellow Republican she's a Never Trumper and would not work for his election. In campaign appearances, she says she was mocking never Trumpers.

“Whether or not Lynda was a never Trumper will not matter in the General Election," Osborne said. "Some well-funded group supporting the Democrat nominee will endlessly use that bizarre never Trump audio to divide Republicans. That audio is extremely ugly and tough to defend. It will be a challenge Republicans should not have to face given we have other, more qualified options in the Primary Election.”