North Carolina GOP office burned by suspected firebomb, vandalized

HILLSBOROUGH, North Carolina -- Authorities are investigating after a local Republican Party office in Hillsborough, North Carolina was set on fire in what a state GOP official called an act of "political terrorism."

The GOP headquarters was vandalized with graffiti and damaged with a flammable material thrown through the front window.

It happened at 347 Ja-Max Drive and was discovered Sunday morning by another business owner. Officials said it happened between 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday.

The graffiti included a swastika and the words "Nazi Republicans leave town or else," which was spray-painted in black on the side of an adjacent building.

Authorities said the flammable substance ignited inside the building, burning furniture and damaging the interior of the building. It was contained in a bottle thrown through the window. The window had lettering on it that said, "Freedom Speaks."

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, called the attack "political terrorism," and said the party will not succumb to it.

Woodhouse said the bottle ended up under a couch where people often sit, nap, or relax. He said it was fortunate no one was in the building because it's often occupied late into the evening during the busy election season.

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Republican leaders from the state and locally spoke after the vandalism and burning at their Orange County headquarters

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said acts like this have no place in the community.

"This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community's safety via fire, and its hateful message undermines decency, respect and integrity in civic participation," Stevens said.

In a statement, Woodhouse said they are requesting additional security at all Republican officers and events. He also said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should be outraged by "this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy."

At a news conference Sunday evening, he said the NCGOP has asked all county offices to close voluntarily at sunset while they asses the situation.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted out a message Sunday afternoon, calling the incident "horrific and unacceptable." The North Carolina Democratic Party said they strongly condemn the attack.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, tweeted that "animals representing Hillary Clinton and the Dems" attacked the office because "we are winning."

Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement: "The firebombing of a local political headquarters in Orange County is clearly an attack on our democracy. Violence has no place in our society - but especially in our elections. Fortunately no one was injured; however, I will use every resource as governor to assist local authorities in this investigation."

Both candidates for the North Carolina Senate seat, incumbent Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, weighed in on the attack saying there is no place for this kind of violence.

Hillsborough police, the FBI, the SBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating. No one was injured.

Orange County GOP chairman Daniel Ashley told reporters that no one had previously made violent threats against the office several miles from the town's historic square. The GOP office is several doors down from a shuttered ice rink in what was once a frontier-themed amusement park that is now a retail complex known as The Shops at Daniel Boone.

Tom Stevens, mayor of the town about 40 miles northwest of Raleigh, said that it was fortunate the fire didn't burn the office and other adjacent buildings that are decades old to the ground.

Stevens, a Democrat, said the act doesn't represent the character of Orange County, which also includes much of Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina campus. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-1 margin in the county that picked President Barack Obama by a lopsided margin in the 2012 election.

"I'd like to believe we aspire to respect hearing differing views," Stevens said in an interview. "This is very troubling."

Stevens said he wasn't aware of any leads on suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator Jon Purvis by email or by phone at (919) 732-9381, ext. 37.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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