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NC superintendent candidate Michele Morrow gets backing from high-profile GOP fundraisers

Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.
Michele Morrow campaign
Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.

Two of the Republican Party's biggest donors are hosting a fundraiser for Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Michele Morrow.

Morrow has made national headlines since defeating GOP incumbent Catherine Truitt in last month's primary. She homeschools her children and has called public schools "indoctrination centers." She has also suggested on social media that former President Barack Obama and other Democrats should be executed on live TV.

North Carolina Republican leaders — many of whom backed Truitt in the primary — have mostly been silent about Morrow's campaign and past comments. Asked last month if they'll support her candidacy or if they have concerns about the comments, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and the leadership of the N.C. Republican Party did not respond. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis issued a statement saying it's "highly unlikely" he'll support her.

But Raleigh developer John Kane and businessman Bob Luddy are hosting a fundraiser for her Wednesday at Kane's home.

Kane owns North Hills and other major developments in Raleigh; he's donated to dozens of Republican candidates as well as some Democrats running for the Raleigh City Council, including Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.

Luddy owns a kitchen equipment manufacturer and is the founder of the Thales Academy private schools.

In writing about the Thales Academy, Luddy wrote that "it is virtually impossible to change the K-12 status quo in public schools," because a "highly-entrenched educational bureaucracy prevents any type of positive change. Sometimes 'Exit,' a disruptive organizational approach that involves exiting the current system and creating a new one, is the best solution instead of trying to reform the current model." The school accepts the recently expanded "Opportunity Scholarship" private school vouchers to pay for tuition.

Luddy also donated $6,000 to Morrow's campaign shortly before her upset victory in the primary, one of the biggest contributions she received. He told WUNC in an email that he's not concerned by her social media posts because "I think it was a spoof."

"Michele Morrow is a home school mother with a deep understanding of K-12 education," he said. "She will return NC public schools to the basics such as making sure all students can read by the end of third grade. She will also make civility and respect imperative."

Efforts to reach Kane Tuesday were unsuccessful.

An invitation to the fundraiser obtained by WUNC lists a suggested contribution that slightly exceeds the legal maximum donation of $6,400, suggesting a "host" should chip in $6,600.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.