North Carolina Republicans are poised for another fight over their chairman this month – just a week before their state convention.
The fight over Chairman Hasan Harnett comes as the party tries to hold onto the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and dozens of other offices.
GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse has notified the party’s executive committee that enough members had petitioned to call an April 30 meeting in Raleigh. The purpose: to consider Harnett’s removal and the possible election of a new chairman.
Last month the GOP Central Committee voted to censure Harnett, citing eight “gross violations of the Party’s rules.” Among them: jeopardizing the security of party computer systems as well as its fundraising apparatus.
“It’s just the culmination of everything,” said Ted Alexander, a former Shelby mayor who now chairs the 10th District GOP. “I no longer think that our chairman is capable of performing the duties he was elected to do and I think he would be better off stepping down as chairman.
“It pains me to say that. He is a decent man … however the turmoil that has been caused under his direction, and which surrounds it, suggests that we would all be better served if he would step down.”
Harnett, from Harrisburg, became chairman at last year’s convention with the support of tea party and grass-roots activists. The state’s first black GOP chairman, he upset a candidate backed by Gov. Pat McCrory and most other party officials. Harnett could not be reached Friday.
Ousting the chairman would require a vote of two-thirds of the executive committee members at the April 30 meeting. Daniel Rufty, chairman of the party’s 12th District, doubts that would happen.
“I feel pretty comfortable that the executive committee is not going to kick out our chairman – the first African-American chairman – right in the middle of a presidential election.
“It would be the dumbest thing we could possibly do to ourselves. I think it would cost us the presidential election and the governor.”
One party official said while a new chairman could be selected at the meeting, it would be more likely to occur after this summer's national convention.
The flap, which has drawn national attention, reflects long-standing tensions between establishment and grass-roots Republicans. A deepening split could hurt chances for a united party going into November’s election.
John Steward, chairman of the 9th District GOP, knows the pitfalls. He voted to censure Harnett last month. Now, he said he’ll have to weigh the alternative.
“(It) would definitely make it worse if the right person is not (elected),” he said. “If the right chairman was brought in, we could go a long way toward healing that rift.”