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How an act of political violence in North Carolina led to something rare — a bipartisan response

How an act of political violence in North Carolina led to something rare — a bipartisan response
Fire damage at the Orange County Republican headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C., shown on Sunday. (Jonathan Drew / Associated Press)

It was a rare olive branch in a season of unchecked political hostility. When someone firebombed a Republican campaign office in North Carolina, it was Democrats who stepped up with more than $13,000 to help their opponents rebuild.

The gesture, in which Democrats have so far outraised Republicans three-to-one, seemed especially notable given that GOP candidate Donald Trump had immediately blamed "animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems" for the damage.

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Despite Trump's claims, as of Monday, investigators still had not identified or arrested the person or persons suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of the Orange County Republican Party headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C., over the weekend.

The ensuing blaze — which happened sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning -- burned some furniture and caused some interior damage before going out on its own. Someone also spray-painted a swastika and the words "Nazi Republicans leave town or else" on a nearby wall.

No one was hurt. But with tensions mounting in the presidential campaign's final weeks, the attack — in a swing state, no less -- held national significance. North Carolina Republicans, in addition to denouncing the attack, said they were stepping up security for the duration of the campaign.

"Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, all Americans should be outraged by this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy," said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. "Whether the bomb was meant to kill, destroy property, or intimidate voters, everyone in this country should be free to express their political viewpoints without fear for their own safety."

North Carolina Republicans denounced the firebombing as an attack on democracy, and Clinton, who has a slight lead in polls of North Carolina voters, was the first candidate to respond with full-throated condemnation Sunday.

Trump had his own message an hour later.

Democrats concerned that the incident will cause tensions to further escalate immediately stepped up. Former Howard Dean campaign advisor David Weinberger launched a GoFundMe page with a $10,000 goal to help repair the damage and re-open the office "as soon as possible." Democratic campaign veteran Joe Trippi also backed the page.

"Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why," the page stated. "No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs. So, let's all pitch in, no matter what your party affiliation, and get that office open again quickly."

Within 40 minutes, the page's operators said, it met its $10,000 goal and capped the donations after receiving more than $13,000 from 550 donors. They then suggested that visitors hoping to make more donations instead donate to a North Carolina classroom through DonorsChoose, a school-funding nonprofit.

As of Monday morning, a GoFundMe page set up by the North Carolina GOP had raised $4,040.

Weinberger and the North Carolina GOP did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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