Marcus Brandon, a candidate for mayor, was disappointed that the High Point Regional Association of Realtors, didn’t support his candidacy — either publicly or financially through its political action committee.
Brandon made his displeasure known in an obscenity-laden Facebook message to Cam Cridlebaugh, president-elect of the realtors association, on the morning after an Oct. 14 candidate forum hosted by the chamber of commerce.
“You guys totally f***ed me,” Brandon wrote. “I want you to convey this message to the High Point Realtors. You guys are a bunch of spineless bastards and you are Exhibit A of what’s wrong with this city. You had the opportunity to stop the fact that this city is the worse ran city in the state and everyone knows it. You had the power to move in a different direction of change and the Realtors chose the status quo and to join the good ole boy club that has been f***ing this city for decades. I don’t attribute this to the NC Realtors because they do operate with strength. The HP Realtors on the other hand are completely useless.”
Brandon, a state lawmaker, said he lashed out at Cridlebaugh because the High Point Regional Realtors Association went back on a promise to back his mayoral candidacy. Brandon said a delegation from the local realtors association met him in his office in Raleigh on local lobbying day earlier this year.
“I did not request the meeting; I did not request the dinner,” Brandon said. “They did in my office talk about their local issues of what the state can do. As they were leaving they invited me to dinner. Other member realtors had asked me about this. They had a whole meeting and a whole dinner to court me and ask me to run for mayor. It wasn’t maybe; it was they would support me.”
In an interview with Triad City Beat, Cridlebaugh categorically denied that the realtors association asked Brandon to run or promised to back his candidacy.
“I’m not proud of that email,” Brandon said. “I don’t want people to think I just all of a sudden had this outburst. My reaction is pretty calm considering what happened.”
Cridlebaugh said he was surprised to receive the message as he was getting his children ready for school and preparing for work.
“I never told Marcus Brandon that we were going to support him,” he said. “I never told him that. We had candidate interviews. That message he sent was six hours after the candidate interviews ended before the president of the association even sent out the support letters. It’s very odd that reaction came so quickly after our committee meeting on whether or not we were going to support candidate A, B, C or D from the mayor’s seat to council.
“I was surprised to hear all that potty mouth coming out of that man’s supposedly politically savvy mouth,” Cridlebaugh continued.
The realtors association wound up not supporting any of the candidates for mayor. Brandon garnered 35 percent of the vote, placing second behind Bencini. Jimmy Scott, another candidate, placed a distant third.
“He had the impression that I was supporting him, but it was just a couple conversations was all it was,” Cridlebaugh said. “He did apologize. I pointed out to him that it was very unprofessional, even based on the misimpression that he had.”
Cridlebaugh said the local realtors association received a favorable report on Brandon from the NC Realtors Association, its statewide counterpart. Cridlebaugh said Brandon’s campaign pledge to diversify the downtown economy by placing new restrictions on furniture showrooms clashed with his organization’s concern about protecting private property rights.
“I work for people who own showrooms,” Cridlebaugh said. “I know they would be highly upset if I supported a mayoral candidate that wanted to change the terms and conditions of their leases.”
Cridlebaugh said he shared the Facebook message with some of the leadership of the realtors association, but chose not to take it to the media.
“I intentionally kept that out of the press because I did not want to railroad anyone or ruin their career,” he said. “People were saying, ‘Hey Cam, you need to tell the press about this. You need to go to the High Point Enterprise. You need to go to the Rhinoceros Times.’”
By election night, as early returns showed Bencini winning the mayoral race by a wide lead, the text of Brandon’s message was creating a buzz among guests at JH Adams Inn, where Bencini’s supporters were gathered.
Brandon said he had been counting on support from the realtors association to finance his campaign mailers, which he thought he needed to get a sufficient margin of votes to win. But he made no apology for cultivating a relationship that might have made his candidacy dependent on the real-estate industry.
“I’m very careful about who I take support from,” he said. “The realtors are perfect for me because I represent the poorest ZIP code in the state. These construction jobs are very important to me. If the realtors are doing good, my folks are doing well. They [the NC Realtors Association] support me because of my record, not supporting me before I ran and asking me to do something for them.
“I would have been honored to have their support,” Brandon continued. “I know politics, and I know that no other group probably would have gotten involved with as much power and influence as the realtors. Everyone knows that if you’re gonna run for city council that you need the support of the realtors. I would not have gotten into this race just to lose at 35 percent. The reality had set in at 6 o’clock in the morning. I would never have sent that message if I had known that it was going to become public.”