The response by the Robeson County Republican Party to the nomination of Kellie Blue to the UNC system’s Board of Governors was vague. We guess purposely so.
When contacted, Phillip Stephens, chairman of the local GOP party, said this: “While this appears to be a bipartisan appointment, if there is any discontent we will be looking into it.”
So we will translate.
The local party is unhappy with Blue’s nomination, most likely because she is a not a party loyalist, and with Republicans in charge of the General Assembly, they get to pick and choose as they please, so why not get a GOP soldier?
We favor Blue’s nomination — and believe local Republicans would be wise to as well, which we will explain later.
Mostly, Blue is qualified.
She is homegrown, graduated from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1993, has distinguished herself professionally as the county’s finance officer and is now serving as interim manager of General Services. She currently is the chairman of the board of trustees at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and would be well-positioned as a member of the Board of Governors to help her alma mater, which is so critical to the needs of not only Robeson County, but expanding in all directions to include Southeastern North Carolina.
Blue’s love of UNCP and Robeson County has been clearly demonstrated through her job and civic committments.
Dr. Robin Cummings, chancellor of UNCP, has had a good seat to watch.
“I am excited but I also am a bit sad,” Cummings said. “We would be losing a great trustee and the chairman of our board, and she would be hard to replace. But that said, she would be a tremendous advocate for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Robeson County and the broader region as a member of the Board of Governors.”
Blue is one of 14 nominees for six positions, so all else being even, she would have less than the chance of correctly calling heads on a coin flip. But our information is that Blue has the inside lane because she is favored by House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, who should be able to deliver her sufficient support.
It should be clear why Blue is a good choice for Robeson County and UNCP; less obvious is why it could be as well for local Republicans if they would embrace her selection.
We know that Blue is young, minority and female, and therefore doesn’t exactly fit the Republican template.
But the local Republican Party, to its immense credit, has made tremendous inroads in Robeson County, the evidence being the elections of Commissioner David Edge and state Sen. Danny Britt, and that this county on Nov. 8 ignored historical trends and favored Donald Trump for president, Richard Burr for U.S. Senate, Pat McCrory for governor, all Republicans.
The party has succeeded in convincing an increasing number of Robeson County residents that decades of voting for Democrats has not improved their plight, especially economically, and that they are more aligned with Republicans on social matters. But there is only so much of that field to be plowed.
Almost 70 percent of this county is minority, and just more than half, 51 percent, are female. The way to bring them on board is not by taking a public position opposed to a qualified American Indian female who is in line for a seat on the UNC Board of Governors, which ideally operates mostly unencumbered by politics.
We believe it would benefit the local party to clarify its position on Blue, and that it be one of endorsement. Her appointment is key for UNCP and this county, and should it fail it’s clear where blame would be affixed.