There were some awkward moments Wednesday at a campaign stop for Senator R.C. Soles. His opponent in the race for State Senate, Bettie Fennell, confronted him at a breakfast with constituents in Burgaw this morning. She asked him about allegations where she had heard that he was the subject of a federal investigation.
Fennell said she had heard that Senator Soles told Senator Mark Basnight that he was going to be indicted after the election. Bettie Fennell did not beat around the bush when she confronted Senator Soles. The Columbus County democrat denied having any knowledge that he was being investigated, and said he had been told Bettie Fennell had offered to pay people to speak out against him.
Fennell said, "I have never offered anybody any money to tell me anything about you, I actually have people calling me wanting to tell me things. One of the things I've heard spread around Tabor City is that the little kid Allen Strickland has actually been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.”
Allen Strickland is a 16-year-old from Sole's hometown of Tabor City. Strickland was recently arrested for extortion and is a former client of R.C. Soles. Police said Strickland threatened to call the FBI and Bettie Fennell with damaging information regarding Soles.
Strickland is alleged to have threatened to ruin Soles political career and said he would see him in prison. Bettie Fennell argues where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
"I think his constituents have a right to know if he's being investigated. We've been hearing these rumors for months and months and months and I think people have a right to know what's going on" said Fennell.
Despite the morning's disruption, Senator Soles continued with his campaign breakfast, saying this was the nastiest campaign he has ever been in, in the state legislature.
Soles said "We are here this morning for me to have an opportunity to speak to friends and supporters and to welcome people here this morning. It's kind of unusual that your opposition would come in and make inflammatory allegations like that."
When it was all over, supporters at the breakfast still stood firmly behind him. We talked to Senate President Pro Tem, Mark Basnight and he said Senator Soles never told him he was being indicted after the election, and if someone told Ms. Fennell that, it was a lie.
Bettie Fennell worked as an investigative reporter for the Wilmington Star News for 22 years, and lives in Pender County. Senator Soles works as a criminal attorney in Tabor City, representing Columbus, Brunswick and Pender counties in the state Senate. They are on the ballot for election November 4, 2008.