Wayne Republicans elect leaders, debate issues
By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 12, 2011 11:27 PM
Fractures were evident Saturday morning even as Republicans from the national to the county levels were preaching unity at the 2011 Wayne County GOP Convention.
More than 200 people gathered at the Wayne Center early Saturday as the party talked about its future and its goals.
The event continued on until almost 3 p.m., with less than 100 people remaining to learn the outcome of the election of officers.
Speakers for the day, including 3rd District U.S. Rep Walter B. Jones as well as local and state Republican officeholders, spoke on the party's successes in the last election.
However, the day was not without controversy.
At one point, Wayne GOP First Vice Chairman John Bell complained that his name had been dragged through the mud by fellow Republicans. He did not elaborate.
Chairman Carroll Turner, who lost the seat to challenger Bob Jackson, hinted of not wanting to see the party return to a pattern of back-room decisions by one or two people, and suggested that spending while Jackson was treasurer took the party's account from $55,000 to just over $3,500 prior to his (Turner's) board's administration.
In his comments, Bell said the current board had reduced spending by 25 percent and that the reduction in the funds by the previous administration was the result of spending.
He said that over the past two years the party had organized a Young Republicans group and had worked to ensure that the party was active and involved in the community.
"We have worked hard," Bell said. "And today we should be seated here, not in a heated convention. We should be seated here rejoicing in what happened in 2010 and looking forward to where we are going in 2012. Over the last month my good name, that I have worked hard for, has been run in the mud. Not by Democrats. Not by Independents, but Republicans and for one reason -- people who want a piece of the pie.
"Some of the people who will speak to you today have not been active in the Republican Party for the past two and a half years, but now they want to be involved."
Bell's comments brought a round of applause.
In the days leading up to the convention, some Republicans had privately expressed concerns that the Tea Party would stage an attempt to seize control of the party leadership.
That is not true, said Jackson, who unseated Turner, 88-83.
"We worked hard," Jackson said of his victory to claim the chairmanship. "We had a committee that worked hard in calling people and getting them signed up as Republicans. We changed some Democrats over. We did a lot of good things to get this many people here. We must have had at least 200 people here, at a county convention, but if we get excited and do the same thing, we can get more people involved and that is the way we are going to win elections."
He said that Republicans need to join together and to welcome those with similar goals.
"The word was out ... what I heard was that those in office thought that the Tea Party was trying to push them out and take over the Republican Party. That is not the case. I am a Republican. I support what (the Tea Party is) doing. They are conservative and stand for the Constitution. I am going to support them any way I can and I think they will support us."
Jackson said he is involved with the Tea Party and thinks people can be involved with both organizations.
Asked if there were any particular issues that had prompted a slate of candidates to oppose the incumbent board, Jackson would only say that he had been approached by people who had really wanted him to run.
"You say how many are out there who think like you think and want a change," he said. "It appeared it was a pretty good number, and they talked me into giving it a try."
Bell won re-election 96 to 76 over challenger Wade McKinney and secretary Ann Sullivan defeated challenger Christina Sowder 89 to 83. Second vice chairman Pat Graham lost to Jerry Grantham, 97 to 78.
Treasurer Iris Kilpatrick was unopposed.
Election of officers was the last item on the agenda and candidates who were to have five minutes to comment were asked to hold their comments to two minutes because the convention was running over.
"If I would clear up one thing, the rumor has been running ... that the Tea Party is trying to take over the Republican Party," Jackson said during his comments. "That is not true. The Republican Party is the Republican Party and the Tea Party is the Tea Party, and it will remain so.
"There is no reason for any connection. The (Republican) party has party business to take care of. If any of you have the feelings this is not the case, if you will see me. If I am elected, I will certainly address it."
Jackson limited his comments to the two-minute time limit and his supporters voiced their disapproval when Turner went over the limit.
Turner responded that his comments would not have been as long had he not been interrupted so many times. He said that Jackson would be given additional minutes. Jackson used that time to remind delegates to vote for his team.
"We need to work together," Turner said. "Two years ago, I was involved in a very tight race for county chairman. I won by two votes. When the votes were counted somebody walked up to me, the convention was still in session, and said, ' Buddy you wanted it and now you've got it' and walked out the door. I was left holding the bag. That is not the way to treat anybody. We need to work together. If we do we can accomplish wonderful things. If Bob Jackson wins, I am going to be the first one to congratulate him."
Turner said he would continue to work for the Republican Party and not act the way he was treated two years ago. The current board has had two years to show what it can do -- including increasing funds in the party's account, he said.
"Probably the most important thing, this was not always true in the past, but we had an administration that was very open," Turner said. "If I continue as your chairman, it won't be a decision made in a back room by one or two people. I want you to judge us on our record. If you do, then we will prevail."
Turner was interrupted by Jackson supports saying "2 minutes, 2 minutes."
Turner said that in fairness the rules adopted earlier in the convention had given each candidate five minutes.
That brought a chorus of "Bob gets more. Bob gets more. That's right." Rules chairman Gene Baker finally asked the audience to stop interrupting.
Turner agreed that Jackson could speak for three more minutes if he wanted to.
Using two large displays, Turner said he wanted audience members to see that on March 1, 2004, that funds on deposit in the operating account were $55,247.
"Beginning March 1, 2004, that figure under the leadership of Bob Jackson, as treasurer, he was handling the money, his initials are right here, 'OK. Bob Jackson,'" Turner said. "In five years, the fund balance dropped from $55,000 to two years ago March 1, to $3,533. That's what I had to work with. That is what was turned over to us.
"In the past two years, the fund balance has gone from $3,500 to $11,110. That is an increase of 300 percent. Under the previous administration, it dropped 1,500 percent."
Turner noted that audience members had put their trust in Sheriff Cary Winders, Rep. Efton Sager, Sen. David Rouzer and Sen. Louis Pate as well as others who had endorsed the current board.
In his comments, McKin-ney, who lost to Bell, said Republicans or Democrats have to let their elected officials know where they stand.
"Do we drag them in the press?" he said. "No. Do we send them personal letters? Yes. Can we do it as a committee? Yes we can. It does not have to go before the newspapers if we are sending it as brother to brother, sister to sister. We should as we do in our church call one another down and pull them aside when they are doing wrong in the church. We should do that as man to man woman to woman and that is the way America works."
Along with organizing precincts and electing precinct official, the convention approved three resolutions.
The first resolution said that most of what the federal government does today has no constitutional authority. It calls for the Congress to stop funding the federal bureaucracy, starting with the Departments of Education and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The second resolution calls for continued support of Israel and that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "stop their arrogant meddling in Israel's internal affairs."
The final resolution deals with the Council on Foreign Relations, which the resolution says promotes one world government. The resolution calls for a pledge from any who plan to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 that they will not appoint any member of the council to any position.