ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Rally heckler makes verbal threat toward Catlin

by Michelle Saxton
Saturday, April 20, 2013

A heckler at a rally supporting North Carolina’s film industry voiced a threatening comment against Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, who is among sponsors of a bill that proposes to make film incentives nonrefundable.

An unidentified rally attendee shouted, “Shoot Catlin,” during a speech by New Hanover County Commission Vice Chairman Beth Dawson at the Saturday, April 20, riverside rally in downtown Wilmington.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who helped organize the rally, condemned the threat when contacted by phone after the event.

“That’s unfortunate what happened, and we won’t condone anybody that would say anything like that,” Saffo said, adding he did not personally hear the comment.

Saffo noted passion, fear and uncertainty in the crowd, including concerns about jobs.

When asked if there might be any safety concerns for Catlin, Saffo said, “No. I’m an elected official and I’ve done some things sometimes that people have disliked and I’ve had people send me death threats … in a letter; I’ve had people leave messages on my phone threatening my life,” Saffo said. “I know that people from time to time get passionate about a specific issue and feel very strong about a particular position.”

Catlin did not attend the rally but said afterward, he had anticipated a well-coordinated pushback effort against House Bill 994 but noted it was interesting there was such pushback for a bill not expected to pass.

“Makes me curious what kind of nerve we hit,” Catlin said in a phone interview after the rally.

“I knew it was going to be controversial, but I did it because in my heart I felt it was the right thing to do,” Catlin said. “It’s my job to protect the hardworking taxpayers and to make sure that public money is spent for the best public good. And when I found out how this was being done it was not in conformance with anything else. Elected officials that avoid controversy aren’t doing their job,” Catlin added. “You’ve got to do what you think is right — that’s why people put you there.”

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