The epicenter of the fight between the conservative grassroots and the Raleigh establishment is in The Outer Banks’ House District 6. A July 17 GOP runoff features the top finisher, a Tea Party favorite, vs. the #2 finisher — a former Democrat legislator backed by GOP power brokers in Raleigh. Local GOP officials are lining up behind frontrunner Mattie Lawson, while it appears Raleigh politicos like Richard Morgan allies Thom Tillis and Harold Brubaker are lining up behind former Democrat Arthur Williams:
Stan Deatherage, owner/publisher/editor of BeaufortCountyNow.com is endorsing Mattie Lawson in the run-off with Arthur Williams on July 17. Deatherage’s endorsement appears in Saturday’s (5-19-12)BeaufortCountyNow.com. Click here to read the full article.
Lawson is running as the winner of the Primary, after having defeated both Williams and Jeremy Adams, a Dare County fellow Republican. Adams just recently endorsed Williams after the Dare County Republican Executive Committee voted to endorse Lawson, over strong objections from Adams and some of his followers. The Dare County Executive Committee unanimously endorsed Lawson in the run-off. Within days of the Dare Republican leaders’ action Adams announced his endorsement in a visit he and Williams made to the Democrat oriented Washington Daily News.
Most local Republican activists with whom we talked after Adams endorsement felt it would not make any difference in the Lawson/Williams run-off. The Observer did not even report Adam’s “endorsement.” Lawson told us: “I’m not concerned about Jeremy’s endorsement. I just don’t think many people vote a particular way because some politician tries to tell them how to vote. I was much more pleased with the endorsement of the Republican Executive Committee from my home county because those are the people who have known me for years. They know me. They have seen my record over the years. That they would support me means a great deal to me, and I hope it is an indication for voters who may not have known me over the years.”
The Observer has monitored the activity in Dare County since the initial action by the GOP Executive Committee. It appears to us that Adams was hurt personally when he lost. Adams ran on essentially the same platform as did Lawson…that of a conservative, heavily libertarian bent. Williams on the otherhand has a long record as a liberal Democrat. He in fact was given a grade of “F” for all three terms he served in the Legislature by the Civitas Action rating of conservative effectiveness.
So we were perplexed about why Adams would endorse a person who has voted the opposite of what he campaigned on. There is growing evidence that he is simply bitter that Lawson beat him.
For example, one of his reasons was that Lawson was “handpicked” to run against him. Yet the public record shows that it is Williams who is the “handpicked” candidate of the Raleigh power structure (House Caucus leaders and staff). Williams, in his original announcement that he was filing, said that he had been encouraged to run by Thom Tillis, the current Speaker of the House. And former House Speaker Harold Brubaker from Randolph County recently attended a fund-raiser for Williams. At that fundraiser Williams touted more than two-dozen big Democrat donors. His ad for the fundraiser said you could be his “friend” for $250. Williams is also being supported by a number of big name lobbyists. We’ll have more on that in other articles.
Williams’ voting record during his three terms in the House has been to support every tax increase passed during those three terms, as well as a number of “Big Government”/anti-consumer bills and issues opposed by most conservatives and libertarians such as requiring Voter ID. As one long-time observer of the Legislature said: “Arthur’s been a puppet of the Democrat leadership ever since he got up here. He marched to the orders of Jim Black and Marc Basnight. Black and Basnight gave him a few crumbs but for the most part they viewed him as a joke. In three terms, the most significant thing I can think he did, other than vote the way he was told to vote, was to get a bill passed that allowed for wider boats on the highways.”
Williams fell out of favor with the Democrats. He sought to get an appointment to the Senate seat that Marc Basnight represented. He lost to an inexperienced candidate (Bill Cook) in 2010. Cook ran on essentially the same conservative platform that Lawson is now running on. When Cook handily defeated the veteran and much higher funded Williams as a Democrat, Williams switched from Democrat to Republican and filed to run for his old seat as a Republican.
We talked to several reliable sources in Raleigh who told us that Williams mis-read the “encouragement” he claimed from House leaders and staff. We were told that before he filed, Williams traveled to Raleigh to court support from Tillis, Majority Leader Skip Stam and others. An inside staffer, who has been a very reliable source in the past, told us that all the leadership did was to give Williams the same encouragement that they would courteously give anyone. “The Leadership would be happy for Arthur to return to the House as a Republican,” we were told. “He does what he is told to do and that is probably why Brubaker went to his fundraiser. Arthur is a Company Man.” And, it was added: “Brubaker is positioning himself to succeed Tillis (who is probably going to run for the Senate (against Hagan) or even challenge Tillis if the Speaker continues to alienate people as he has been doing.”
But the most interesting “insider info” we learned was that Lawson is not coveted by the Establishment in the GOP leadership. When asked why, the source said: “Mattie is a woman. Not only is she a woman but she is a bright, strong-willed woman who has a lot of business success as a “kick ass/take names” kind of manager from what we have heard. She is not viewed as a ‘Team Player’ in this game. As sad as it is, strong women don’t do well in the Republican Party. Here’s the thing: Williams is a weak, easily controlled vote. Lawson is viewed as being a ‘tough nut to crack’ and we don’t want any more of those kind of representatives than we’ve already got. If Mattie is elected maybe it’ll be ok. But Arthur is a known quantity. Why take a chance? Arthur will play ball our way. The fear is Mattie will want to change the rules.“
Added to this, is the fact that former Beaufort County GOP Chairman Ashley Woolard and self-appointed Kingmaker Bill Tarpenning have cast their lots with Williams. Both Woolard and Tarpenning are now managing Williams’ campaign.
When we asked, of our sources in Raleigh, how that came to be we were told: “Easy. Arthur couldn’t find any Big Boys to raise money and run his campaign. He had to go with the locals. Woolard is just trying to get lined up for another shot at the big time after he was trampled by G.K. (Butterfield, Congressman in the 1st District). I don’t know much about Tarpenning. He’s not well known up here. ” Our source indicated he would check and get back to us. He did, saying: “Tarpenning is just a legend in his own mind. Nobody up here takes him seriously. I understand he tried to get Frank Palombo to pay him big bucks to run Frank’s campaign against Walter Jr but Frank laughed at him. Williams was probably just his fall-back meal ticket. I can tell you neither Woolard or Tarpenning are playing in the big sandbox.”
We also learned that the “Smart Money” in Raleigh is on Lawson. The bet is she will win. “The thing is, in a run-off, turnout is everything. Much more than in the General Election and even the first Primary. I would be surprised if we get 15% turnout in July. And conservatives usually are more passionate about voting and absent some “driver” the conservatives will likely vote heavier than the kind of voters that Arthur attracted in the first Primary with Amendment 1 on the ballot. We are trying to learn as much as we can about Mattie so we’ll be prepared to deal with her when she gets here.”