Better Governing Now » The NC GOP Gets Exciting New Leadership


The NC GOP Gets Exciting New Leadership

    Last night, the newly-elected chairman and newly-elected vice chairwoman of the state GOP met with a crowd in Beaufort County to address questions, criticisms, and concerns with our state party. The event was co-sponsored by the Beaufort Patriot Tea Party, the Beaufort County GOP, and the Citizens for Better Government (mostly unaffiliated who are fed up).

    This past June 6, delegates to the 2015 North Carolina Republican State Convention took a major step toward diversity. They elected Hasan Harnett as the first African American to hold the position of party chairman. Even more, Harnett is the first chairman who was supported overwhelmingly by grassroots and Tea Party groups. Grass-roots conservatives backed Hasan because they are frustrated with the prospect of being led by somebody chosen by party's establishment.
NC GOP Chair Hassan Harnett speaks to Beaufort County Republicans: Above. photo by Stan Deatherage     Click image to expand.

    Hasan beat Craig Collins, who was backed by Gov. Pat McCrory, North Carolina's two U.S. senators (Richard Burr and Thom Tillis), a congressman, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and leaders of the state House and Senate, as well as the sitting chairman. In other words, Hasan beat the establishment candidate. A very special thank-you goes out to AJ Daoud, another Tea Party favorite, who also ran for the chairman position but at the last minute, withdrew his candidacy, thereby throwing all his support to Hasan. The race was characterized as "David-Goliath contest" with Hasan, the relatively unknown, ungroomed, unpopular (with the establishment, that is) character going up against the big, powerful, popular, well-backed Goliath character. As in the Biblical story, David was victorious.

    Hasan, 39, is a businessman, motivational speaker, and a martial arts enthusiast. The Massachusetts native attended Pennsylvania's Lafayette College where he majored in biochemistry and dreamed of a career in medicine. He co-wrote an article on chemical compounds for a scientific journal "The Journal of Liquid Chromatography." He graduated in 1998 and decided to take a different direction. Instead of a career in medicine, he decided to take the business route. He took an accelerated business program at Dartmouth College and then went to work for a venture capital firm. For the next few years, he worked in finance and real estate and other ventures, including his own startup that offered online music for college students.

    In 2005, Hasan and his wife Ayana moved to Harrisburg, just outside Charlotte, for a new start and a job as a financial analyst at U.S. Bank. The couple now has 3 young children - 2 girls and the youngest, a son. When he arrived in NC, he was completely apolitical and joined the Democratic Party, a move he explains was blindly motivated by the fact that African Americans associate with that party. But soon he found himself becoming involved in politics. His life changed after he met with the late Tim Johnson, a GOP activist who founded the Frederick Douglass Foundation, which bills itself as "the largest Christ-Centered, Multi-Ethnic and Republican ministry in America." Tim is remembered for many wonderful things but especially for his unwavering, unselfish support for the Tea Party and for conservative, Christian, and family values. Hasan said he has always been a conservative, but when he finally took the time to invest in some due diligence, he found that it was the Republican Party and not the Democratic Party that represented his values most closely.
NC GOP Chair Hassan Harnett (left) and NC Vice GOP Chair Michelle Nix (right) listen to Beaufort County Republicans: Above. photo by Stan Deatherage     Click image to expand.

    Hasan was a Democrat when he voted in the 2008 presidential primary. He said he bypassed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and wrote in Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican. He officially switched parties in 2010, according to election records. That's when he helped the campaign of Christopher Hailey, a black Republican running for Mecklenburg sheriff. After that campaign, he began working on the state party's efforts to recruit more minorities. At the same time, he was learning more about politics. In 2011, he was chosen as a fellow in the N.C. Institute of Political Leadership, which has groomed state political leaders for nearly 30 years.

    Michele Nix was elected on June 6 with 64% of the vote, which is a testament to the love and respect the party delegates have for her all over the states. The words that describe Michele are determination, action-oriented, loyalty, and principled. She is one of our very own. She has been a loyal and active Tea Party member since the party began and has been instrumental in not only growing our organization and spreading its values, but also in helping build various bridges with other leaders and groups all across the state. She was the chairwoman of the Lenoir County Republican Party before having to step down to serve as the state vice-chair.
NC GOP Chair Hassan Harnett (left) and NC Vice GOP Chair Michelle Nix speak to Beaufort County Republicans: Above. photo by Stan Deatherage     Click image to expand.

    Both Hasan and Michele assert that their goal is to build the party at the grass-roots level and get it ready for 2016.

    At last night night's meeting, Hasan heard comments from an African-American gentleman, who explained that he was fed up with the Democratic Party, officially changed his affiliation to "unaffiliated," is enamored by the Tea Party (which he said "has embraced me and makes me feel welcome"), has worked to help elect conservative candidates, but still has reservations about joining the Republican Party. He said he is most bothered by the fact that race continues to be an issue. He said Republicans should stop associating issues with race and stop including race when referring to people. As an example, he emphasized that every time the GOP mentioned Hasan being the new chairman of the state party, it was always prefaced with the phrase "the first African-American." He hopes the GOP can go forward and prepare for the task ahead in 2016 in a color-blind manner. He believes it will attract more minorities that way. Hasan agreed, while also explaining that in his experience, African-Americans want attention to issues that specifically affect them and sometimes to dissociate from race makes it appear that their particular issues aren't recognized.
NC GOP Chair Hassan Harnett listens to Beaufort County Republicans: Above. photo by Stan Deatherage     Click image to expand.

    The most critical issues that were presented to Hasan and Michele last night (by people from across the spectrum) include credibility, a strong message, the ability to present a "clear choice" to voters in the upcoming elections, fairness in how the party spends its funds among all candidates, the promise that the party will not attempt to influence any race until the people have spoken through their primaries, and the ability to motivate frustrated citizens and get them out to vote.

    The key, of course, will be to work closely with grassroots organizations, be worthy of their support, and honor their concerns. After all, in a democracy, people can only translate into political power when they vote. Currently we are constrained by a two party system that channels our vote and provides us with power. It is absolutely incumbent that those two parties ACTUALLY represent the people if our voices are to be heard. In a true democracy, political power is organic; it bubbles up from the concerns and wishes of the people. If the only way people can be heard is by a party that puts ITS interests above the interests of the people, then we certainly don't have a true democracy. In the end, we have a system where political machinery advances its own agenda by parasitizing citizens.
Contributor Diane Rufino (left) asks a question of GOP leadership as Beaufort County GOP chairman, Keith Kidwell (center, standing), looks on: Above.     photo by Stan Deatherage     Click image to expand.

    The hope, at least from this author, is that the GOP will look within, understand its role as vehicle for citizens who desperately want their conservative values represented in government, to establish laws and policies for their best governance, for the strongest protection of their rights and liberties, to honor their best interests in a strong and responsible education system, and to provide them with the support and commitment to the foundations necessary to establish and raise strong families, and to put the People first before party interests.

    Publisher's note: Contributor Diane Rufino also serves of co-publisher for Pitt County NOW.

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