Politics & Government

Some NC Republicans look to former chairmen to lead party

Claude Pope, Jr.
Claude Pope, Jr.

Anticipating the ouster of their chairman, some North Carolina Republicans have been talking to three former chairmen – and a former governor – about filling the vacancy.

Former chairs Claude Pope and Robin Hayes said they’ve been approached. One GOP source said Republicans also have talked to former chair Jim Hastings as well as former Gov. Jim Martin.

Nearly 600 members of the state party executive committee are scheduled to meet in Raleigh Saturday to vote on the removal of chairman Hasan Harnett. Harnett, from Harrisburg, faces a litany of accusations involving what critics say has been poor and incompetent leadership.

This week seven former chairs, including Pope, Hayes and Hastings, wrote executive committee members saying they are “disappointed and even appalled” at Harnett’s actions.

Harnett was elected last year with the help of tea party and grassroots activists. He upset a candidate backed by Gov. Pat McCrory, the state’s two U.S. senators and the party establishment.

“The situation that the party’s in now is not altogether different from when I was elected chairman,” said Hayes, a former congressman who led the party from 2011-2013. “The most effective and best way to deal with this situation is to be a good listener. When people realize they’re being heard, and have a seat at the table, things seem to work out.”

Pope said although he’s been approached, he doesn’t want the job.

“I would do if compelled to, (but) I don’t want to do it,” he said. “I do think we need somebody who has been in that job before or who can command the respect of the broadest base of the party we can.…

“Whoever fills that job is going to have their hands full with the grassroots activists, but they’re going to immediately have to go into election mode.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill