In one corner, here’s Nancy McFarlane, candidate for a fourth term as Raleigh mayor, unaffiliated politically, but supported by many Democrats in previous elections.

In the other corner, here’s mayoral challenger Charles Francis, a proud Democrat who won the endorsement and enthusiastic support of his local party leadership.

In this context, when word got out that McFarlane wouldn’t be welcome at party events held to promote Democratic candidates, the party’s executive director Rebecca Llewellyn said it was all a misunderstanding.

But McFarlane’s campaign responded strongly.

“I contacted the party chair and expressed that that would not be OK with us,” McFarlane spokesman Perry Woods said Friday. “We would not feel constrained about going to any Democratic meeting.”

Says Wake County Democratic Party executive director Rebecca Llewellyn: “We certainly are not going to turn the mayor away from any events.” She adds: “At Democratic events that are put on by Democratic precincts, we invite Democratic candidates.”

Woods, a longtime political consultant, heard about the mayor not being welcomed from a Democratic precinct chair, but similar stories have been circulating for weeks. It’s officially a nonpartisan race, but Llewellyn sees the contest as an opportunity for Wake Democrats.

“We really want to build the party,” she says. “He’s a very compelling candidate.”

Woods noted that McFarlane has been a strong supporter of a number of Democratic candidates.

“If there’s a significant meeting of Democrats, we would like to go,” he says.

As for chances for Francis and McFarlane to debate, Llewelyn says such events would be more appropriately handled by a nonpartisan group such as the League of Women Voters.

To complicate matters further, an event planned for four p.m. Sunday at Rebus Works is sponsored by a group called Fellow Citizens–Wake, allied with the statewide organization Stronger NC.

Francis and Llewellyn are listed as speakers.

Stronger NC includes Democratic organizations, but its literature lists its goal as providing a “moral compass to guide us as we look for ways to connect with our fellow citizens amidst political uncertainty.”