CONCORD – Today is a big day for the North Carolina Republican Party. The 2019 NCGOP convention kicked off Friday, but Saturday is the day delegates will elect a new chair of the state party.
The significance of that vote is amplified by the the current state of the party and its performance on a state level over these last few years. The current chairman, Robin Hayes, came to that position after a lot of drama with grassroots elected chairman Hassan Harnett. Harnett was ousted after a lot of intra-party power struggles, and Hayes — a GOP old guard member, former congressman, and former chairman of the party — was inserted.
In 2019 Robin Hayes was indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery, among other things, after a federal investigation into a particular mega-donor and his relationship with the NCGOP uncovered a lot of allegedly illegal behavior on part of, both, the businessman and Hayes.
This all follows years of steady erosion of Republican political dominance in the Old North State. What was a two-chamber, veto-proof, super-majority in the General Assembly by late 2018 had become a thin majority after last year’s elections yielded steep Republican losses across urban and suburban districts.
The governor’s race was lost, narrowly, to current Democrat Governor Roy Cooper in 2016, as well as a vitally important seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. The NCGOP apparently had put the latter on the back-burner only to watch the high court turn in favor of Democrats, and then followed that up in 2018 by a complete abandoning of then-incumbent Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson during her reelection effort against an avowed social justice warrior. That social justice warrior, Anita Earls, is now a Supreme Court Justice.
For year the grassroots of the Republican Party have been frustrated with the top-down structure of the party that seemed to push engaged activists to the side in favor or elite blue bloods that could cater to the donor class.
Now, the (inactive)chairman is under federal indictment for being too cozy with a donor; the high courts are firmly in Democrat hands; the Governor’s Mansion is occupied by an appeaser of the Far Left; and, Republicans are dangerously close to losing their control of the state legislature if 2020 results are anywhere close to 2018.
The NCGOP is at a crossroads, and the next chairman will be instrumental in choosing the right path to get back on a winning track. The candidates — Jim Womack, Michael Whatley, and John Lewis — have been making their pitches and working to get supportive delegates to the convention in Concord. Saturday those delegates will choose to continue with business as usual (Lewis), charge forth with a capable anti-Establishment grassroots leader to revive the party (Womack), or throw their support behind a Trump-connected insider that helped the president win NC in 2016 and has revial plans of his own (Whatley).
We’ll be watching to see how the chips fall, and so will the Democrats.