Campaign Tracker

NC GOP chairman fighting to keep post

Hasan Harnett
Hasan Harnett Jackie Stinson photo

There’s been a lot of talk about a contested Republican convention in Cleveland this summer. But there may be one closer to home.

That would be in May, when North Carolina Republicans hold their state convention in Greensboro.

And Hasan Harnett expects to be at the podium.

Harnett has been under fire since the state party’s Central Committee voted Sunday to censure him. Its resolution of no confidence included a litany of eight offenses “deemed harmful to the North Carolina Republican Party.”

Among other things, they included a dispute over the cost of attending the state convention.

Now, less than a year after Harnett was elected the state party’s first African-American chairman with support from grass-roots activists, some party leaders are trying to oust him before the convention.

But Harnett plans to stay.

“I am the elected chairman,” he said Tuesday. “And despite holding back tears and despite having no access to my emails … and despite being hit by baseless attacks and unrelenting assaults, I was elected to lead and serve.

“And at this time, the chairman still calls for unity. And the chairman will still lead the party accordingly.”

The conflict between Harnett and other officials has split the state party, or at least the activists who pay attention to these kind of things.

Efforts by party officials to force out the chairman have already begun.

“The work of the party must carry on in an environment of mutual trust and respect with our leaders,” former Chairman Claude Pope said in a statement. “It became painfully evident that this was not to be the case with this chairman.”

Harnett supporters, meanwhile, have flooded social media. Signers of a Facebook petition pledge they will no longer support the party if Harnett is ousted.

“There’s a lot of support for him at the grass roots,” said Jack Brosch, a conservative activist from Charlotte.

To some extent, the dispute mirrors what’s going on with the party nationally.

Tension between supporters of Donald Trump and the GOP establishment have been an undercurrent of the presidential race. Trump supporters have threatened to bolt the party if he is denied the nomination despite having nearly enough delegates to win.

Harnett denies the specific accusations the Central Committee made. He said he has tried to do what he promised, often against the opposition of the party staff.

“I’ve never claimed to be perfect,” he said. “But I am a hard worker, a leader, a devoted Christian. And even an energetic volunteer for the party.”

He’s convinced he has support from rank-and-file Republicans.

“There is a movement from the grass roots,” he said. “And anybody outside the four walls of the GOP headquarters stands with the chairman.”