RALEIGH — A former Republican N.C. Supreme Court justice and GOP gubernatorial candidate has made frequent donations to Democrats and aligned with anti-Republican groups in recent years, according to campaign reports. Retired Associate Justice Robert F. Orr, first elected as a Republican in 1994, is now a fierce critic of the party and former President Donald Trump.
Orr’s largest donations to Democrats included President Joe Biden and two unsuccessful Democratic congressional candidates, Pat Timmons-Goodson and Dan McCready. He appeared on a fundraising invitation for McCready in 2019.
In the 2016 presidential election, Orr was a North Carolina delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he was pledged to support former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Orr was also Kasich’s state campaign chairman.
He left the convention after just one day and was quoted in multiple news outlets for his negative comments about Trump. He told Asheville’s WLOS that Trump was “singularly unqualified to lead this country.”
North State Journal asked Orr about his relationship with Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver, who was Kasich’s campaign manager in the 2016 primary.
“The first I heard of the Weaver allegations was in the news media within the last couple of weeks. I’ve never met Weaver,” Orr told North State Journal.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met any of the founders or principles in the group, but I think I sent them a couple a hundred dollars early on, but that’s it.”
However, Orr’s last contribution to the Lincoln Project occurred on June 28, 2020.
He said he sent Weaver a message about bringing Kasich to Charlotte to highlight NCAA reform at a season-opening game between the UNC Tar Heels and South Carolina Gamecocks.
“I thought with both NC and SC in play politically and the game being televised on ESPN, a hard hitting speech about NCAA reform would get lots of attention,” Orr said.
The Lincoln Project, formed in December 2019, has seen most of its top advisers leave in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
Weaver has been accused by several men of harassment. In a statement on Jan. 15 to Axios, Weaver said, “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. The truth is that I’m gay. And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”
The group, a leader of the “never Trump” movement, evolved from attacking Trump to opposing all Republicans. The group spent nearly $200,000 opposing Sen. Thom Tillis and targeted Maine Sen. Susan Collins and both incumbent Republicans in the Georgia Senate runoffs.
Subsequently, reports emerged that others in the group knew about the allegations for several months before acknowledging them. Those disclosures led to the departure of other co-founders, including Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 31 that more than 20 men had accused Weaver of sexually harassing them.
Politico reported on Feb. 12 that people familiar with the organization’s internal dynamics say specific complaints about Weaver’s conduct were brought to managers in the summer of 2020.
Orr’s contributions haven’t been limited to candidates in federal elections.
At the state level, Orr made contributions to Democrats as early as 2013, giving to N.C. Court of Appeals candidates Mark Davis and Lucy Inman. In 2017 he also contributed to Allegra Collins’ campaign for the court. He donated to only one Republican in the 2020 elections — Durham attorney Christine Mumma, who unsuccessfully ran for attorney general. He made two contributions totaling $750.
In a 2018 Charlotte Observer story, Orr was identified as a critic of the party despite maintaining his registration as a Republican. Orr had had taken positions “at odds with those of his party,” including criticizing voter ID and saying the GOP was beholden to the NRA.
In the wake of Trump’s second acquittal on impeachment charges, Orr changed his voter registration. On Feb. 17, Orr tweeted, “Just made it official. After 45 years as a registered Republican, I am now an Unaffiliated voter.”
North Carolina Republican Party communications director Tim Wigginton told NSJ, “Who’s that guy? At the North Carolina Republican Party, we are focused on winning elections and getting results.”
“I don’t have time to pay attention to irrelevant Twitter trolls who have no impact on North Carolina politics,” he added.