Lt. Gov. Dan Forest discusses campaign gifts and reopening statement

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest addresses the crowd as his official gubernatorial kick off rally. Photo credit: James Piedad via the Dan Forest for Governor campaign

RALEIGH – North Carolina Lt. Governor and candidate for Governor Dan Forest recently announced his campaign used nearly $200,000 from his campaign’s bank account to support individuals and small businesses across North Carolina.

In an accompanying video from campaign manager Hal Weatherman, the campaign took issue with an email solicitation sent by Gov. Roy Cooper’s re-election campaign. Weatherman said that Cooper’s email was “one of the most tasteless fundraising solicitations” he had seen. Cooper’s email said he fell short of his fundraising goal by $4,787. Weatherman said that on the very same day Cooper’s email went out, the N.C. Department of Commerce announced 620,000 North Carolinians had filed for unemployment as a result of the state’s stay-at-home order to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

North State Journal reached out to get more details from Forest on the decision to use the money for that purpose.

“As soon as we saw the depth of the economic pain being felt by the people of North Carolina, we knew we needed to re-tool our campaign,” said Forest.

“It seems senseless and wrong to raise millions of dollars to put advertisements on TV when so many people in our state are out of work or mourning the loss of a loved one,” Forest said. “We have been blessed with so much support over the years, and it felt right to put our campaign money where it could do some real good.”

Forest campaign spokesman Andrew Dunn said the campaign has canceled dozens of fundraising events across the state to enable staff to focus on relief efforts. Dunn also said that the campaign will ramp back up on a county-by-county basis in a way that protects health and safety. That will likely include teleconference options, similar to how both the N.C. Democratic and Republican parties have held virtual county and district conventions.

The video released by the campaign was one of the first public announcements since Forest became the Republican nominee on March 3.

“Our gifts are just that — gifts. We didn’t tell anyone what we were doing, because we weren’t seeking publicity. And we are asking for nothing in return. It’s simply a blessing to be in a position where we can help our fellow North Carolinians,” said Forest.

North State Journal also asked both the campaign and Forest’s office how often the governor’s office has kept them up-to-date on the COVID-19 response. Forest has called the governor’s office to offer his help but received no reply, according to Dunn.

Additionally, the lieutenant governor’s communications director Jamey Falkenbury said their office was not made aware of executive orders before their release including the March 27 statewide stay-at-home order.

Following Forest’s announcement of the campaign contributions, he called on Cooper to release a plan to reopen the economy. Forest said that the governors of South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia have all announced their plans to safely reopen, and Cooper needs to do the same.

“It is time for Gov. Cooper to have a sense of urgency to reopen our economy and allow people to return to their livelihoods,” said Forest.