According to a report in the liberal rag Politico this morning, moves may be afoot by RNC against the new conservative chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, Hasan Harnett. Harnett is the first black to ever serve as chairman of the NC Republican Party, and was elected at the state convention in June by conservative and grassroots activists who no longer tolerated having the chairmanship dictated by a small group of power brokers.
According to Politico:
TAR HEEL STATE PARTY TROUBLES — The North Carolina Republican Party has a lot on the line in 2016 – a battleground state in a presidential yea, one of the tightest governor’s races in the country, and an incumbent senator to protect. But GOP leaders and the state party Chairman Hasan Harnett are struggling with trust issues, or as one Republican familiar with these discussions put it: “[Harnett] will tell you one thing, and then two days later, he’ll do a complete 180 on it.” This summer, the party lost its executive director, and within weeks, lost its interim executive director, too. Without one, there is more chatter that the Republican National Committee might run its money through a county party, instead of the state, like former Sen. Kay Hagan did in 2014 when the state’s Democratic Party was in turmoil.
“I’m almost sure that’s going to happen,” another local GOP strategist said. “Now, they’re trying to work around [Harnett], and isolate him.” But Paul Shumaker, [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001135′ ]’s (R-N.C.) campaign consultant, said there is “no decision” yet to change the funding structure. “Without knowing who the executive director is, everybody’s going to leave a lot of options on the table,” he said. However, Niger Innis, a Republican activist, said that while the Harnett has been willing to work with the “old guard” in the state, the establishment hasn’t reciprocated. “Is the Republican Party ready for the repercussions of attempting to force failure upon the first black chairman of North Carolina?” Innis said.
The executive director who resigned was Todd Poole, a holdover from the prior NCGOP chairman and former Chief of Staff to Congresswoman [mc_name name=’Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’F000450′ ], a member of the House leadership. Poole has returned to Washington to serve in the same capacity for Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’H001067′ ]. Hudson had been very heavily funded by Eric Cantor’s PAC in his first primary and, indeed, Cantor’s PAC spent more money in Hudson’s primary than in all other races it was involved in that year COMBINED. A few weeks before resigning, Poole made two highly controversial hires as Political Director and Finance Director of the state party. One was a liberal lobbyist who has worked for high profile liberal organizations and causes but never for conservatives. The other was a former employee of liberal Republican political consultant Dee Stewart who had quarterbacked the campaign of Harnett’s establishment opponent in the race for chairman. Both hires caused a furor in the party and a confrontation at the state GOP Central Committee meeting the weekend after they were announced. Poole, who appears to have already had his new job in DC lined up, resigned shortly after that Central Committee meeting.
In the Central Committee meetings, the establishment’s functional floor leader has been National Committeeman David Lewis, who as a state legislator is also one of the triumverate of leadership in the NC House. As a legislator, Lewis has long been associated with liberal issues including trying to water down the state’s Voter ID laws (in which he has been nicknamed ”Affidavit Lewis”) and supporting subsidies for wind and solar energy special interests and other corporate welfare.
While the RNC has taken steps like those suggested in the Politico article in a handful of other states, those have in the past followed a party takeover by outside forces, like the Ron Paul organization. In North Carolina’s case it was the conservative grassroots party regulars who asserted themselves at the convention, not any outside forces. Harnett himself is a former RNC employee, which would make an RNC move against him particularly peculiar and lend credence to those who would likely assert race as a factor.
The change in party leadership has been taken very hard by some in the state GOP’s homegrown consultant class, particularly establishment consultants Paul Shumaker and Dee Stewart. One of Poole’s controversial hires was apparently recommended by Shumaker and the other had been an employee of Stewart. Earlier this year, the respected North Carolina conservative think tank Civitas had published an article detailing the heavy involvement by Stewart and Shumaker in a major legislative effort funded by far left money to push renewable energy subsidies in the state legislature and to try to beat back GOP efforts to end the state’s renewable energy mandate. Lewis was one of the legislators who was very involved in those efforts. Stewart has also been heavily involved in primary campaigns by moderate Republicans against respected conservative legislators.
At this point, there is only speculation as to who is funneling these matters to RNC and to the left’s mouthpiece Politico. Since many grassroots Republican activists are at best lukewarm to both McCrory and Burr, any power play like this by the RNC would be ill conceived, as it would likely blow back on such candidates. Republican grassroots activists are mad enough at Washington, DC as it is, as shown by the Trump surge.