An audience with “The Pope”

claude pope




Most people who want an audience with The Pope on Easter weekend have to go to Rome.  I got mine at the Moore County GOP convention this weekend.

This “pope” was none other than Claude Pope, cousin of THE Art Pope and candidate for NCGOP chairman.  Pope had stopped in to schmooze with convention delegates, and — darn his luck — he got cornered by me.

Pope has been campaigning as a self-described outsider for the top job in the state party.  But today, in Moore County, Pope told me that the governor himself asked him to run for state party chairman.  (I don’t know.  The governor seems to be pretty “inside” to me. )

The candidate said the governor and his team are very concerned about having an effective organization in place to communicate — and defend — the administration’s policies.   (Isn’t that what the press office is for?)

Pope says he learned a valuable lesson from his Wake County party experience:

“We worked hard and got a solid majority on the school board.  With that majority, we were able to get a lot of positive things done.  Thanks to some egos, some folks acting like idiots, and unanswered attacks from the Democrats and the media, it was gone in two years.  It’s important to win elections.  But it’s just as important to hold onto, properly defend, and build on what you’ve achieved.”

Pope says he has had a good working relationship with Tea Party and other grassroots activists since he was Wake County GOP chairman in 2009-2010.  He said the Wake party and the grassroots worked very closely on a number of events and issues.   Pope is living on Bald Head Island in Brunswick County now, but plans to move back to Raleigh if he is elected state party chairman. 

I talked with Pope about accusations of meddling in primaries leveled against the outgoing party administration:

“I’m not interested in any of that.   If folks at the local level make a decision on a candidate, and that person is not a criminal or an out-and-out kook, THAT is my candidate and the party and I will fight as hard as we can to help that person to victory lane in the general election.”

I also talked with Pope about the party’s elected officials in Raleigh having to be dragged kicking and screaming by the grassroots to the right position on what should be no-brainers for conservatives — like fighting ObamaCare:

“Leadership should be from the bottom-up.  It’s very healthy for local folks to communicate their concerns to state officials.  As a small businessman, I am very concerned about the potential effects of ObamaCare.  I am watching that 50 employee limit very closely. ”

I asked Pope for his thoughts on Governor McCrory’s proposed budget, which is $400 million higher than last year’s, and whether he thought cutting spending and shrinking government were still important issues for the NCGOP:

“Four hundred million?  What is that, in terms of the total picture? Two percent? Governor McCrory produced a very sensible budget.  It helps make state government more efficient.  It sets aside money into reserves, a rainy day fund.”

Pope faces Mecklenburg County Tea Partier Jack Brosch in the race for state party chairman.  Voting will take place at the state convention this summer.



5 thoughts on “An audience with “The Pope”

  1. seems odd to me that hayes is touring the state one minute talking about his future plans with the party, then the next minute the governor has personally asked pope to run.

  2. Our best party chairmen have been full time chairmen. Is he going to do that? Is Brosch?

    The Governor’s nephew wants to be party ED, and is working on Pope’s campaign. Will Pope push that? Would that be wise for the party?

    Will Pope be a strong voice for the grassroots with the Govenror’s office? Hawke was supported by Governor Martin for state chairman but that did not stop him from going to bat against Wilma Sherrill on appointments and taking his case successfully to the Governor. Will Pope do that?

  3. No offense to the governor but his nephew is surprisingly a very terrible person. He’s only ever gotten a job on his uncles accreditation and if the party wants to essentially “grow up” with this immature kid and watch him through some serious missteps then they will be in a world of hurt. Being a district vice chairman, I really don’t want to be hamstrung by uncle pat and his nephew everytime there is an internal disagreement. Who is going to want to disagree or heaven forbid argue with hq if he’s just going to run and tell uncle pat about it? No thanks.

  4. Claude Pope spoke at the Guilford County Convention. I met him before he spoke. He was introduced to me by friends who are “Tea Party” as am I, and the wife is also a member of the Greater Greensboro Republican Women’s Club, as am I. They are long time friends of Claude and vouche for him as honest and Conservative. I was totally impressed by what he had to say. I do believe he will be warm and welcoming to all. He will be able to raise money -which is the job of the chair- and he will reach out to All groups who are Conservative and respect their ideas.

  5. This article seems to imply that Pope is an “insider” vs. the “outsider” he claims to be. I’ve known Claude Pope for many years, and am also very active in a grass roots conservative “tea party” organization. I can honestly say that from my personal experience of Claude’s philosophy, he aligns very closely with grass roots conservatives. He has the heart of a limited-government conservative…a “regular guy” kind of common sense, combined with a independent leadership mentality. That fact that he happens to have mainstream Republican friends can only be a plus when it comes to effective communication with “both sides”. From my perspective, he’s exactly what the NC GOP needs to bring both grass roots and mainstream Republicans together!

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