Political parties generally work in two-year cycles. Odd numbered years start in the spring with party organization at all levels. With teams organized during the odd numbered years, they then enter the next even numbered year in campaign mode. The campaigns end November of the election year and the cycle begins again.
The local Republican Party has elected its leadership teams and already met with local conservative leaders and candidates in preparation for the next election cycle. District conventions are still ongoing around the state and the NCGOP state convention will be held in June.
Former U.S. Congressman Robin Hayes is running for re-election to lead the NCGOP again. He took over amid controversy last election cycle when infighting occurred after the election of Hasaan Harnett as state chair. Harnett was quickly ousted.
Jim Womack, a West Point graduate and former state director of Public Health Information Systems, is challenging Hayes for the chairmanship. Though Hayes brought the party together following the Harnett fiasco, Womack cites loss of both the governor’s race and the conservative advantage in the Supreme Court as evidence of the state party’s failures.
While most think establishment types are the ones that can easily hold onto a position like state party chair, that isn’t necessarily the case. While Hayes is considered a stable establishment type leader, delegates to state conventions are the hard-core operatives. They tend to be at the extremes of the political spectrum.
That’s how the word “God” was almost removed from the Democratic Party platform. Democratic delegates to state conventions tend to be more liberal than mainstream voters.
Republicans are no different. Tea Party or extreme right delegates can swing a GOP convention issue and skew what are considered centrist views. These are the delegates that elected Hassan Harnett in 2015 much to everyone’s surprise.
Though it was clear Harnett was going to win at the last state GOP convention, Robeson County had promised its votes to Craig Collins. who was backed by legislative leadership. Robeson faithfully kept that promise.
No one can predict the outcome of state GOP leadership this round. The loss of the governor and Supreme Court may be the least of incumbent Hayes’ worry though.
Voters want the GOP-led Legislature to focus on moving the state forward. Local parties want more organization and input. Either Hayes or Womack must influence the Legislature, better organize the NCGOP structure and increase fundraising to keep winning.
In the end, local political parties are simply vehicles to help elect candidates. The real power is gaining and holding seats. Danny Britt has become a powerful and effective state senator and will be up for re-election next cycle having bumped Democrats out of a seat they held for over a hundred years.
Britt has proven himself to both Democrats and Republicans in Robeson. He has been the most active senator ever, filing more bills than any previous senator of any party. He simply works hard.
Legislator Brendan Jones has been an excellent counterpart over in the House. Jones has supported Robeson tremendously and has been just as effective.
Here’s an insider view that most miss. Guys like Britt and Jones serve at great personal sacrifice. It isn’t all power and glory. This holds true for any legislator, including Democrats Garland Pierce, Ken Goodman and Charles Graham. Traveling to Raleigh, time away from family, constant meetings coupled with potential controversy, all done in public view is personally taxing on these legislators. They deserve our respect and they value voter input.
The local GOP is gearing up for the re-election of excellent proven leaders like Britt and Jones. But plans do not stop there. The GOP has its sights on at least two more long-held Democrat seats.
This conservative growth has only positive benefits to a county that is finally getting national attention for something other than being on another bad list.
Phillip Stephens is Chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.