#NCSEN: Going Rogue in Gates County?





One of the Tar Heel State’s smallest counties is speaking pretty loudly this week.  Gates County is on the border with Virginia in the northeastern quadrant of the state.   It’s county GOP organization has jumped head-first into the GOP primary for the US Senate.  Check out this statement from the county GOP’s Facebook page:


Okay.  Here’s more from the county Republican Party chairman:


THIS is not likely to sit well in certain pockets of Wake and Mecklenburg counties.  State GOP documents pay lip service to the concept of neutrality by party officials in GOP primaries.  It will be interesting to see WHO has the gall to question this move by Gates County Republicans.

Will it be the RNC or its Senatorial Committee — which both have a history of meddling in primaries across the country?  Will it be the North Carolina Republican Party, which — itself — has been rocked by allegations of meddling under former chairman Robin Hayes and current chairman Claude Pope?  Will it be the Mark Harris campaign, which is chaired by former state GOP chairman Robin Hayes?  Will it be the Thom Tillis campaign — whose candidate has a documented history of meddling in primaries and has reportedly bragged that he has meddled and will meddle again? 

This episode needs to be a wake up call for the GOP establishment in this state.  There is a real anger — a fire — burning among the folks outside the Raleigh beltline.

Senator Bill Cook has been an anti-establishment force during his tenure in Raleigh.  He’s helped the GOP make inroads in what for years was Marc Basnight country.  He made it to the state House after slugging it out with the party establishment.  They gerrymandered his district.  He decided to run for the Senate — once again battling the GOP establishment and barely knocking off Marc Basnight’s hand-picked successor in the general election.  (Cook’s November 2012 Democrat opponent has announced that he will be seeking a rematch in 2014.) 

Greg Brannon was one of the earliest Tea Party leaders in North Carolina.  He’s drawn the ire of the state party establishment — and the attention of establishment hitman Karl Rove.

The folks at NCGOP HQ need to pay close attention to what has happened here — and to what is reverberating across the state.  They can choose to use a heavy hand to slap down these people in Gates County. Or they can listen and learn — taking those lessons to heart in order to avoid a full-blown split in the party and a disaster in 2014.


22 thoughts on “#NCSEN: Going Rogue in Gates County?

  1. You neglected to mention that Cook decided to run for the Senate after Tillis’ boys in House redistricting, in their very last version of the map screwed him to the wall by dividing his home county, making his district tilt Democrat, and double-bunked him with a Democrat incumbent.

    Tillis’ war on conservatives should beget a conservative war on Tillis.

  2. I’ve never met Mr. Hill personally, but I witnessed his speaking from afar at a 3rd District Meeting last summer, and the state Convention in Charlotte, I personally think he’s the Paul Revere of Northeast NC,
    sorry if I sound a little early when saying this, but I think him and Mattie Lawson-Dare County should run for Chair and Vice-Chair of NCGOP in 2015.

    I just got back from the State EX Comm Meeting and I must say Claude Pope is essentially a nicer version of Robin Hayes, during his chairman’s report, I thought I was listening to a Guidance Counselor instead of a Political Party Leader.

    BTW, next year’s Convention will include even less time for business than this year, the Convention will start on a Thursday, but it will for various non-business events such as White-Water rafting etc, Friday will start at 1 PM, (same as last year), Saturday will end by 1 PM!!!! WAY TO LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE CLAUDE!!!

  3. In defense of Chairman Hill, it should be pointed out that he understands the need to comply with the NCGOP’s POO rules…he did point out that this was a decision of the Gates Executive Committee. I’m guessing that his Executive committee basically put him in the same situation as Craven’s former Chair. Except that Tom Hill is NOT an Establishment type, and even as he doesn’t possibly agree with his people, he doesn’t want to throw them under the bus, either…..unfortunately State is going to hold him responsible for his peoples’ decision.

    1. Of course we did, but at least a censure isn’t a violation of the POO. I must say though I admire Gates County for not being afriad to stick their necks out and the chairman doing the honorable thing by upholding the will of his executive committee, the opposite could be said of our former chairman.

      1. I certainly didn’t mean to imply criticism of the Craven ExComm…I was simply using Craven as another example of what happens when a County ExComm and their County Chairman are of divergent positions.

        I re-iterate again….based on the Gates County Chair’s statement, I think he is being forced to thread a needle through a very difficult position that his ExComm has put him in.

        I don’t like the underhandedness of the Rove/State HQ/Tillis types, either, but in this case, Article VII, section G of the State POO is what it is. Assuming there’s no District or County POO rule to the contrary, the County ExComm is free to do as they wish, provided they make clear that their actions are not the official stance of the Gates Republican Party. However, they appear to have crossed a line here and put their Chairman in a position where he either has to resign, execute their decision and place himself in the crosshairs of the State Party in the process, or go against his ExComm and face removal by that body.

        As a result, we all suffer because the NCGOP needs young, innovative, and visionary leaders like Tom Hill to see us through the potentially dark times ahead as demographic shifts in NC are trending against us.

    2. The state Plan of Organization does NOT prohibit a county executive committee from making such an endorsement. It prohibits members of the state executive committee from using the dignity of that office to support a primary candidate. It does not govern county executive committee members. Some county Plans have a similar provision prohibiting that, but many do not. I trust that someone consulted the Gates County GOP Plan of Organization before proceeding with this vote to be sure that their county Plan did not prohibit it.

    1. JK Smith, Chairman Hill is within his rights to support whichever Republican candidate he prefers, as an individual. But he is NOT within his rights to use the resources of the Republican Party, including his Party title, to do so.

      When loyal Republicans contribute to the Republican Party, with their time and treasure, they have the right to expect that their contributions will not be used to oppose their favorite Republican candidates. If that expectation is betrayed, they’re unlikely to be so generous with their time and treasure in the future.

      1. The county executive committee took this action, and unanimously. The chairman has a duty to carry out what the executive committee directs him to do. I do not see any use of party funds in this situation.

        When the state party sets up a straw vote among primary candidates in a venue where a campaign can buy votes by buying tickets, and releases the results to the media, as the NCGOP did, it is straining at gnats to try to find a difference in what the Gates County GOP executive committee did. Whereas volunteers did whatever was done administratively on the Gates endorsement, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that it was paid party staffers that handled the administrative part of the straw poll. That DOES involve party money, while Gates did not.

  4. What a shame that some GOP leaders in Gates County have forgotten that in Republican primaries it is the Republican voters who decide who the Party supports, not a few self-important leaders. Gates Co. Chairman Hill is expressly forbidden by the NC GOP PoO from doing what he is doing.

    The NC Republican Plan of Organization makes it very clear that in Republican primaries the Party is to remain neutral. Like anyone else, Party leaders may personally support whoever they wish, but they are not permitted to use their Party titles or any Party resources in any way to aid one Republican Primary candidate over another. It is the Republican voters, not the leaders, who have the authority to decide who the Party supports. That is the purpose of the Primary.

    The highest authority in the Republican Party is the grassroots voters, voting in primaries. The second-highest authority in the Republican Party is the grassroots voters, voting in convention. The PoO provides that County Executive Committees may endorse in non-partisan elections, only because there’s no way for the Republican grassroots to do so.

    Chairman Hill and the Gates Co. GOP Executive Committee have gotten too big for their britches. They are flouting the Party’s rules, and abusing their offices. They are acting like Obama, with his imperial decrees, extralegally amending the ACA. Why am I not surprised that they’re Ron Paul / Brannon supporters?

    1. No, Dave, YOU have gotten too big for YOUR britches. The State GOP Plan of Organization ONLY addresses members of the State Executive Committee using the dignity of that office to support primary candidates. It does NOT address what county executive committee members may or may not do in primaries. Go back and read it, and educate yourself, so you will not speak from ignorance.

      Now some county plans of organization also contain a similar prohibition on county executive committee members, but many do not have such a provision/ As long as Gates County’s plan does not itself contain such a prohibition, then the county executive committee was fully within their rights to pass that resolution.

      Whether you think it is wise is another issue. I would point out that in some states, county party organizations regularly do endorse In primaries, and in some it is even printed on the ballot which are party endorsed.

      What many activists fear is the threat of Tillis getting the nomination and pulling down the whole ticket as well as losing a Senate race against a candidate we should beat.

      Brannon was not my first choice of the names that were mentioned, or even my second choice, but he is head and shoulders above Tillis, and probably one of the three that actually have a chance to be nominated. Brannon was recently endorsed by Ann Coulter, who often supports the party establishment, as she did with Romney in the primaries.

      1. Raphael, you have forgotten that the County Chairman and Vice-Chairman are members of the State Executive Committee. Chairman Hill is using his Party title and resources to promote one Republican primary candidate over another, in direct violation of the NC GOP Plan of Organization.

        It doesn’t matter what other members of his County Executive Committee want, or how they’ve voted. They did not have the authority to direct him to violate the State PoO. He is prohibited by the State PoO from doing what he is doing, and, by extension, they were prohibited from directing him to do it.

        Moreover, the intention of the PoO is clear, in the detailed discussion of the circumstances under which County and District Executive Committees may endorse in non-partisan primaries. The obvious assumption is that non-partisan primaries are the ONLY primaries in which an Executive Committee would ever make an endorsement. In races in which there is a Republican Primary, it is the Republican grassroots voters who decide who the Party supports. Party officials are NOT supposed to use Party resources to support or oppose Republican Primary candidates.

        It would be very bad for the Party to permit the use of Party resources to oppose Republican Primary candidates. It would divide and weaken the Party, and cripple fundraising. Who would donate or volunteer to help the Party if, the last time they did so, their contribution was used to oppose their favored candidate?

        To take a not-so-random example, how many Tillis and Harris supporters do you think will donate to the Gates Co. GOP, after this episode?

        The RINOs may be chuckling about this, but real Republicans don’t condone such misbehavior, even if it happens to be in support of their favorite candidate this time, because it hurts the Republican Party.

        1. A county chairman is ex officio a member of the state executive committee, but he is wearing his county chairman hat here, and not his state executive committee hat, so he has violated nothing.

          State legislators are also ex officio members of the state executive committee. In your view, did Skip Stam violate the Plan of Organization when he endorsed Tillis? He wore his legislator hat, not his state executive committee member hat, when he did it.

          It seems to me that Stam and Hill are in exactly the same position.

          I don’t get your bit about RINO’s chuckling. The RINO in the primary is Tillis, and I donbt he is chuckling.

        2. “To take a not-so-random example, how many Tillis and Harris supporters do you think will donate to the Gates Co. GOP, after this episode?”

          Speaking from my past experience as a County Chairman, this is not a valid consideration for a number of reasons. One, Tillis/Harris supporters are unlikely to contribute to anyone or anything but Tillis/Harris and secondly, this is doubly true in an eastern county.

          I mentioned shifting demographics earlier….in the long term, Tillis and the State establishment types are burning bridges with parts of the State where Republican fortunes are improving, even as we’re losing the big cities to the Democrats. The future for the NCGOP is the suburbs and the rural counties. Gates County is an an example of this….25 years ago, the County’s PVI was D+23. Today, with newcomers from Virginia steadily moving in, Gates County is D+0 (pure tossup). Likewise, many coastal counties are growing redder due to an influx of conservative retirees, which is one reason why we’ve somewhat blunted if not stopped the Democrat’s increasing strength in Wilmington. And of course, some of these are counties that Tillis has gone out of his way to offend. Which is why giving him the nomination can be tantamount to guaranteeing Kay Hagan another six years. Senate Republicans and Rove really need to take a lesson from the Establishment’s Mitt Romney, the millions of conservatives who refused to turn out to vote for Romney, and just get out of North Carolina.

        3. Raphael is correct. However I understand your concern. It can be “delicate”. But Raphael is correct.

          Thank you for your hard work!!!! You are a patriot

  5. Imteresting dialogue of comments. I’m just a volunteer on the lowest rung of the GOP ladder. I’m asked to donate $, observe & greet at elections & walk my neighborhood precinct to get the voter to the polls. I receive emails from Wake County GOP with all kinds of invitations to very expensive events honoring the “establishment”. I could never afford the lavish fund raisers presented to me in those colorful emails.

    As a Conservative American Citizen I have the freedom to make a choice for the candidate who will best represent my values & moral compass. As a GOP volunteer my choice is taken from me, I become the lowest rung on the GOP participating ladder. I am told whose literature to handout and what I can and cannot say about ” A ” candidate. Heaven forbid if I was aggressive enough to speak my own mind or be trusted & respected for having brains to make a wise choice in a candidate.

    Why does the GOP control the $$ & the decisions of what the grassroots people in the communities are required to support. Why can’t the strongest Team of Volunteers make the decisions at Primaries by way of their hard work getting Republicans to the polls. at least strength is coming from citizens who have their State, County, Country in their best interest when they go to the polls. It is up to the NC candidates ( 4 ) to reveal the strength of their platform via THEIR voters at the polls. All the while, the volunteers for said candidates (presently-4) are bringing together a SOLID well organized group of informative voters who will vote in the Primary and then (all 4 ) support the winner in
    November. GOP WINS all the way! And the bonus happens in 2016 because a solid base was CREATED BY CANDIDATES VOLUNTEERS getting the voter to the polls 2014. This working behind and always late in the timeline of election years is foolish nonsense in 21st Century technology. And the 44 million the national GOP spent on computer programs better represent itself well! That’s a lot of $$$. My feet and hands can meet & greet a lot of people for nearly zero$
    I’m already proving it. I have a lifetime Democrat coming to hear Dr.Greg Brannon at a “Meet & Greet” Party this evening, along with 50 Republicans from my neighborhood. Who in the GOP is going to ask me to stop helping them?!?!?

    1. The big problem of the party elite trying to tell the grassroots how to vote is in Washington, DC. County executive committee members are hardly the elite. They are hard working grassroots types.

      Karl Rove, one of the establishment elite big boys in Washington is trying to dictate who North Carolina’s Senate candidate will be. Rove is anything but a conservative. For example, he is a big backer of amnesty for illegal aliens, and was a complete squish on defunding Obamacare. This attempt to meddle in our primary is an outrage, and the grassroots needs to push back hard against his candidate.

      But the big evil player from Washington, DC is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). They have a bad track record of interference in state primaries to support wimpy moderates and oppose solid conservatives. No thinking conservative should ever give them a dime in contributions. Better choices for contributions would be the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth.

      In the Florida primary in 2010, the NRSC made a preemptive endorsement of moderate Republican governor Charlie Crist for US Senate and raised him a big warchest. That did not stop Marco Rubio, who jumped in and got ahead of Crist in the polls. Crist, in a snit, switched to independent and made it a three way race which Rubio handily won. That made the NRSC look like fools asking for their money back. Crist is now running for governor again, as a Democrat. That is the type of candidate that NRSC usually backs in primaries, and it is one reason we have such a wimpy GOP delegation in the Senate.

      In the Colorado primary in 2010, the NRSC backed moderate Jane Norton, who had been an AARP lobbyist backing Hillarycare, and the Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth backed hard charging conservative District Attorney Ken Buck. Buck opened up a good lead in the polls, so the NRSC paid for some scorched earth attack ads that were really vicious in the primary against Buck. Buck still won the primary, but NRSC’s attacks had wounded him enough that he very narrowly lost the General Election.

      In this election, the NRSC is already trying to black list political consultants who work for conservatives, and they are doing opposition research on conservatives who are in Senate primaries.

      Thom Tillis is clearly Rove’s candidate, and I would bet dollars to doughnuts that he will be NRSC’s as well. The grassroots battlecry ought to be ”NOT TILLIS”.

  6. Interesting discussion, but several facts are misrepresented both in the article and in these comments. County Chairs and Vice Chairs are NOT “ex-officio members” of the State Executive Committee. They are full voting members, as stated in Article VI C1d of the NC GOP PoO. The prohibition against using a title, position or authority to endorse a candidate in a Republican primary in article VII G does not apply to non-partisan races but fully applies to the highly partisan US Senate race, or the NC Senate race which is the case here.

    Per the postings of both the County Chair and the Treasurer on their “official” Gates County Republican Party Facebook page, several facts can be discerned. In one instance, they claim that neither the Chair or Vice Chair participated in the vote, and that only the Treasurer and Secretary did so. They go on to state that all other members who voted were not members of the County Executive Committee. That means that only four members of the County EC were in attendance, strongly suggesting the absence of the necessary quorum. The Chair acknowledges that he appointed the Vice Chair as Parliamentarian for the vote, but that still does not excuse him or relieve him of his duties of Chair in that process. When the motion was made from the floor for the vote, it should have been ruled out of order. If you look at Article VII I 3 regarding endorsements in non-partisan elections, you will see that advance notice is required by US mail to all County Executive Committee members as well as to ALL of the candidates affected. There is no such language elsewhere in the PoO regarding endorsements in partisan primaries since the inference is that they are not allowed. I this case, it is actually what ISN’T in the PoO that is compelling rather than what is.

    It is quite disingenuous for the County Chair to try and distance himself from these events regardless of the nobility of his intent. This is not about “free speech” but about the rule of law. We argue frequently against elected officials in Washington who ignore the rules that don’t suit them and just do as they please, “going rogue” if you will. Copying their tactics dilutes any credibility to any effort to challenge them for doing so.

    The party has a long history of adjudicating similar cases and the principles are well established. However the NC GOP decides to handle this, it won’t be some “new” interpretation or application of those principles. There was a County Chair removed just last year for doing something very similar.

    Finally, the vote was wholly inappropriate if only four of the seven announced candidates were included on that ballot. This showing of favoritism to the prejudice of the other candidates not listed is exactly why such prohibitions against endorsements exist in partisan races. The County Executive Committee owes equal loyalty to each and every registered Republican in Gates County, not just those who choose to attend a single meeting.

    The youth and inexperience of some involved should be considered in mitigation when this is resolved and become a healthy learning experience for all. No one knows our PoO better than the Dems and they await each opportunity to pounce on any transgression of it. Making these events so public as this article does and posting it all over social media only enhances the likelihood that it will come back to haunt not only the party in general, but even Dr. Brannon should he be the party’s nominee next Spring.

    I don’t think anyone questions the passion or commitment shown by those involved, but their political judgment is surely worth a second look. The party is not government and the PoO is not law, so the “civil disobedience” concept is wholly inappropriate. Those who believe that the ends justify the means have already lost the battle for sustaining the rule of law so essential to our Constitutional Republic. These party officials agreed to be bound by the PoO when they took office, including abiding by the judgments rendered upon them from higher levels within the party. If they disagree, they can appeal but are still bound by that final decision. If they remain in disagreement, they have every opportunity to “secede” from the party and exert their energies or pursue their goals in a multitude of other groups whose beliefs are more consistent with their own. If we are going to have any merit in our bid to rein in wayward officials in Washington for not following the rules, we have to set the example first here in all we do… 🙂

    1. The first thing that jumps out about you lack of knowledge and understanding of this process is your misstatement about ex-officio members. ”Ex-officio” does not have a darn thing to do with whether someone has voting rights or not. It simply means that they hold a position by virtue of holding another office. Two large groups on the NC state GOP executive committee are on it ex-officio, the GOP members of the state legislature and the county chairmen and vice chairmen. Skip Stam who is an ex-officio member of the state executive committee by virtue of being a state legislator, has openly endorsed Tillis. Under your theory, that would be a much more direct violation of the Plan than the much more minor role of officers in Gates County. Yet funny thing, you don’t criticize Stam at all, and he is from your own county.

      The State plan of organization simply does not address the issue of county party executive committee endorsements in primaries, despite the creative distortions of some who would like for it to do so.

      Given the ignorance you have displayed in your post, I am certainly glad that I did not vote for you for party vice chairman.

  7. First, I do not live in Wake County though I am originally from there. I do not know Rep Stam nor am I aware of his actions you reference. Please point me to the Article and Section of the PoO where it says ex-officio members of the State Executive Committee have a vote. Only voting members are counting in establishing a quorum, and they (ex-officio members) are specifically excluded from that count because they are non-voting members. County Chairs and Vice Chairs are specifically listed as members of the State Executive Committee in Article VI C1d (http://www.ncgop.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/2013-NCGOP-Plan-of-Organization1.pdf), not ex-officio as you claim. The only reference I can find in the PoO to ex-officio members of any kind having a vote regards the State convention where some delegates serve on committees as ex-officio members and are given a vote on that committee specifically where their status would otherwise have precluded it. Otherwise, such language would not have been necessary if they traditionally do have a vote. Please read it for yourself. It is hard to conceive of a policy that would prohibit a County Chair from endorsing but yet let them preside over a meeting in an official capacity whose purpose is exactly that. Passing the gavel to a subordinate fails to comply with both the letter and intent of the PoO since when that is done, he who assumes the gavel is then acting as the Chair and is likewise bound by the same constraints as if the Chair was conducting the meeting. But, the statement of the Chair in his post on their page says the Vice was appointed as Parliamentarian, not acting Chair for that meeting so the Chair is still in charge. As Parliamentarian, the Vice Chair may have ruled on the motion, even by default if only in allowing it to come forward, but if they erred in that ruling, then the Chair and everyone else is bound to answer for it. I think you will find that what you label as “ignorance” is little more than a difference in opinion… 🙂

    1. Anyone who knows beans about parliamentary procedure or parliamentary law knows that the term ”ex-officio” has nothing whatsoever to do with whether that person has a vote or does not have a vote. It means ”by virtue of the office”, that someone serves on one body by virtue of another office they hold, like serving on the state GOP executive committee by virtue of your office as county chairman or vice chairman or state representative or state senator. That is in contrast to those members who are elected specifically as members of the state executive committee.

      While both would be prohibited from using their status as a member of the state executive committee to further a primary candidate, that would NOT apply to any underlying office, whether as a state legislator or as a county chairman.

      Only the really ignorant have the mistaken notion that ”ex-offico” means non-voting. It does not and never has.

  8. Note to the page moderator. The system clock you use must be off because I posted just now (around 4:30 pm and yet your system is showing I posted it later this evening at 9:26 pm. FYI.

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