Embattled N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett said Tuesday that he’s in the “final stages of consummating a reconciliation document” with other party leaders to end months of infighting.
But party leaders say they’re not close to an agreement and still plan to vote on removing Harnett at a committee meeting April 30. About 200 of the 550 members of the party’s Executive Committee have signed an impeachment petition.
The conflict has hurt fundraising and harmed the party’s reputation in a crucial election year.
Harnett is the party’s first black chairman. He was elected last year with Tea Party support, beating a candidate who had endorsements from nearly every GOP statewide elected official.
Harnett’s proposed “peace accord” was sent to party members and posted Tuesday on The Daily Haymaker, a conservative blog.
The proposal asks both sides to stop public criticism. Harnett would drop his efforts to lower the party’s convention fee from $90 to $45 and apologize for calling the higher fee a “poll tax.” He’d “recommit” to making fundraising a top priority after criticism that he hasn’t raised enough money. And the party’s Central Committee – a smaller leadership group than the Executive Committee – would retract its “no confidence” vote, which banned Harnett from party headquarters and email accounts.
“I’m ready to sign off on those (terms) today, and I’ll be shocked if the Central Committee is not ready to move forward as well,” Harnett said in an interview Tuesday.
A letter signed by multiple Central Committee members, however, says Harnett’s claim is “patently false.”
“The document that the chairman attached to the email was a proposal from a third party to be used as a starting point for working towards a resolution,” said the letter, sent by email Tuesday afternoon. “The chairman rejected all offers that were made to him ... including discussing the items in the document.”
And while Harnett says he’s close to an agreement to end the feud, he also posted an eight-minute video statement Tuesday that blasts party leaders and two former chairmen.
“No one would want to be treated the way I am being treated,” Harnett says in the video. “The Central Committee has made me nothing more than a telemarketer that calls and begs for money.”
Harnett said he has apologized to other party leaders in the hopes of coming together. “My apology was met with more divisiveness and hatred,” he said in the video. “I am not going to resign. I am not going to sit down and shut up.”
Addressing criticism of his fundraising, Harnett said his predecessors – former chairmen Claude Pope and Robin Hayes – caused the party to go into debt, and he blasted Pope for taking a salary as chairman.
Pope said Tuesday that the party was “never in debt” during his tenure, and that when he left office last June, the NCGOP had $300,000 in the bank.
“This shows his lack of political skills,” Pope said. “You don’t reconcile by beating somebody over the head with a video.”
Pope said he had met with Harnett on multiple occasions, even inviting him to his Bald Head Island home to help with fundraising calls. “As a former chairman, we all want whoever the current chairman is to succeed,” Pope said.
The letter from the Central Committee members blasts Harnett for his video comments, and it calls on party members to attend the April 30 meeting in Raleigh. At a meeting of 32 Central Committee members last week, only two were willing to consider keeping Harnett.
“It is unclear how the chairman can be serious about any resolution while he continues to publicly fight against the Republican Party,” the letter said. “We do not see a path forward with Chairman Harnett. We fully expect to vote on removal of Chairman Harnett on April 30th. It is the only path forward we see for the North Carolina Republican Party.”
Under party rules, if Harnett is voted out, the 550-member Executive Committee then must vote on his replacement. Party rules say that the vice chair, Michele Nix, won’t automatically take the chair’s position.
Party leaders are in talks with former elected officials and former party chairmen who might be willing to lead the NCGOP through the November election, leaders said.