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NC Democrats walk out to protest Republican joining House

North Carolina General Assembly

Dozens of North Carolina House Democrats left the chamber when Republicans seated a new member who has said he was just outside the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection in January.

All but a handful of Democratic caucus members left their desks for the exits as Rep. Donnie Loftis of Gaston County took the oath of office during Monday evening’s floor session, according to news outlets.

Gaston County Republicans last month picked Loftis -- a former county commissioner and Army veteran -- to succeed the late Rep. Dana Bumgardner and serve out the remainder of his two-year term representing the 109th House District.

Loftis had already confirmed his attendance at the Jan. 6 rally. He said recently he had peacefully exercised his First Amendment right and had “zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day.”

The House Democrats said nothing about Loftis before they departed. One of the protest’s originators, Democratic Rep. Grier Martin of Wake County, was not in the chamber Monday night for other reasons, But Martin, also an Army veteran, said there was “no way I was going to be in the room when that guy took an oath to join the House of Representatives.”

At the time of the Capitol attack, Loftis wrote on a now-deleted Facebook post that he was close enough when rioters breached the Capitol to be “gassed three times.”

“I spoke to many service members, and we all agreed that we didn’t want to be there, but we had no other choice," a screenshot of Loftis' post said. "They don’t get it that they work for us. And I mean that in a respectful way.”

Martin said "when you seek to undermine the democratic institutions that make it great, you’re turning your back on America.”

Hundreds of Donald Trump’s supporters battered their way past police, injured dozens of officers and interrupted the electoral count inside the Capitol certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

Loftis declined to speak to reporters after the floor session ended, saying he’d rather spend time celebrating with his family.

“I am honored to be serving District 109,” he said.

House Speaker Tim Moore said he’s known Loftis for 20 years. He’s “a good man” and given FBI scrutiny of the Capitol attack, if Loftis had done anything illegal that day “we’d of heard it by now,” Moore said.

“Everything I’ve ever known about Donnie is about trying to give back and serve the community,” the Republican speaker said. “I think we’re fortunate he’s here to serve.”

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

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