RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The soon-to-be successor to a North Carolina House member who died this month said on Friday he was outside the U.S. Capitol in January when the insurrection there occurred.
Donnie Loftis, who was chosen by Gaston County Republican activists this week to succeed the late Rep. Dana Bumgardner, confirmed his attendance at the Jan. 6 event to WRAL-TV.
Loftis, a former Gaston County commissioner, said his involvement in what turned into a riot was strictly peaceful.
On Jan. 6, “while I peacefully exercised my first amendment rights in front of the US Capitol, I was surprised and disappointed to watch others storm the entrance as violence ensued,” he wrote by text message to the station. “I had absolutely zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day.”
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.
In January, Loftis had posted a picture of himself to Facebook before the rally saying he was on a bus headed to Washington, according to WRAL. The station said it received screenshots of now-deleted posts.
“I got gassed three times and was at the entrance when they breached the door,” Loftis, an Army veteran, posted at the time, according to a screenshot. “I spoke to many service members, and we all agreed that we didn’t want to be there, but we had no other choice. They don’t get it that they work for us. And I mean that in a respectful way.”
When the station asked Loftis for a phone conversation Friday, Loftis said Friday’s statement “is my final word on the matter.”
State law makes Loftis’ elevation to the House essentially automatic given that local Republicans picked him. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is obligated to formally appoint him within seven days as a representative, or the House seats him.