Oct 14, 2022 - News

Decades old assault surfaces in NC legislative race

A portrait of NC state lawmaker Terry Garrison

Terry Garrison. Source: North Carolina General Assembly

A North Carolina lawmaker running for reelection assaulted his then-wife in 1994, 22 years before he was first elected, court records obtained by Axios show.

  • The case resurfaced this week — with less than a month until Election Day — when Republicans detailed the incident in a campaign mailer.
  • In response, the lawmaker, Democratic state Rep. Terry Garrison, and his now ex-wife are calling it a politically motivated attack by Republicans aiming to gain power in the legislature.

What happened: A judge granted Garrison's ex-wife, Deloris Jerman, a temporary restraining order against Garrison in December 1994.

  • He "picked me up and threw me across foot board onto bed, jumped on my back and started choking me," bruising her shoulder and throat Jerman detailed in a complaint she filed two days after the incident.
  • She withdrew that complaint a few weeks later, and the pair divorced in 1998, records show.

What's happening: Republicans, who are aiming to win a supermajority in the legislature this November, sent out a mailer attacking Garrison Wednesday, calling him a "domestic abuser" and highlighting what Jerman wrote in the 1994 filing.

Yes, but: Garrison has an unlikely defender in Jerman, his ex-wife.

  • The pair, who said they have a friendly relationship, spoke together with Axios Wednesday.

Jerman acknowledged that the incident happened, highlighting that it was almost 30 years ago. She declined to provide any more details.

  • Jerman said Republicans were trying to "sensationalize the accusations" to gain control of the legislature in November.
  • "It is most despicable antics of the opposition," Jerman said. "The incident was resolved by court dismissal in a friendly and amicable manner."

Context: The GOP already holds a majority in the legislature and needs just three seats to win a supermajority in the House. Though Garrison's seat appears just slightly out of reach for Republicans because it leans Democratic, flipping it would get the party one seat closer to having enough votes to override any of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.

  • After the Republican-led legislature drew new political maps last year based on 2020 Census data, Jerman was among those who signed onto a lawsuit along with the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters accusing Republicans of partisan gerrymandering.

With Garrison nearby, Jerman said voters should focus on what her ex-husband has fought for during his three terms in office. She pointed to several issues, including Medicaid expansion and women’s reproductive rights.

  • "Rep. Garrison is not new in Raleigh, and he's represented us well," Jerman said. "We're hoping that voters will see all of this."

The other side: House Republican caucus director Stephen Wiley, who is tasked with helping to elect Republicans, pointed to what his assault of Jerman says about Garrison's character.

  • "Your character matters or it doesn't," Wiley told Axios. "To a number of voters in District 32, Rep. Garrison's character should matter."

Of note: When asked whether he regrets his actions, Garrison reiterated that the event occurred nearly 30 years ago and emphasized the same points Jerman made, saying "the incident was resolved in a friendly and amicable manner."

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