Infighting, Censure And 'No Confidence' Vote For NCGOP Chair
What started as a social media spat over email access has morphed into something more. Late Sunday night, the Central Committee of North Carolina’s Republican Party announced a no-confidence vote in its Chairman HasanHarnett. They also passed emergency restrictions on Harnett’s duties pending an investigation.
When Hasan Harnett was elected state chairman of the Republican Party, last June, it was historic. He’s the first African-American to hold the post. And with his background in grassroots organizing, Harnett seemed just the man to broaden the base of North Carolina’s Grand Ole Party.
His election, however, was a bit of a shock says Political Scientist Michael Bitzer. "It was very much a surprise in that the establishment within the party, including the governor, now U.S. Senator Thom Tillis had all supported another candidate." That being Gastonia lawyer Craig Collins. Collins was obviously the establishment choice. Harnett, a Cabarrus County businessman, was the Tea Party-backed insurgent. "And when he won the party chairmanship it really posed an interesting question we’re not only seeing at the national level but also here in North Carolina," says Bitzer, "And that is can the Republican party work together with all the different factions within it."
So far the answer is no. And the fighting, it’s unlike anything Bitzer has seen from the state GOP. "It has gone so publicly, so quickly and so divisively."
The first major shot was fired by Harnett himself. He did not respond to our interview requests but on March 8 he went public with the fact his NCGOP email account had been shut down. The News and Observer obtained an email sent from Harnett’s private account to State Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse. Where he wrote:
"I mean seriously, is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman of the NCGOP State Party through? Or is it because I am not white enough for you? You keep pushing the limits. I guess time will only tell what your real plot and schemes are all about against me."
The state party stated the email outage was temporary and affected multiple party officials. It also stated a security issue was to blame.
Ada Fisher is an African-American member of the Central Committee. Harnett’s race, she says, did not play a part in the no-confidence vote. "If you read the memo there was nothing in there about race, hazing or anything else. Those were not the issues we were dealing with." But the committee did censure Harnett for making “false and malicious statements about other Republicans.”
The bigger issue, Fisher says, is that Harnett didn’t understand his role in the party. "When you’re elected the chairman of the party, that’s more of a role of spokesperson."
Harnett wanted to set policy. Specifically on the party’s convention in May. Harnett ran for chairman by saying he wanted to cut the fees the party charges delegates. This year that cost is $90 per person just to attend. Harnett has referred to that fee as a modern day poll tax and wanted to abolish it. Fisher says that’s not his decision to make. "Unfortunately when you have speakers that you bring in and who don’t come for free usually," and she adds attendees must pay their share of the costs. "In addition, conventions are a way you generate some funds to operate the party."
In the press release sent out late Sunday, the Central Committee repeatedly referred to problems and confusion about the convention as a reason for the no confidence vote Harnett.
But that may not be the most serious charge.
The committee also expressed concerns over the security of the NCGOP computer systems and fundraising apparatus.
O March 16, Harnett posted this to his Facebook page:
"Recent accusations of me hacking into the NCGOP website are false and ridiculous. These types of "witch hunts" will not only devastate our Republican candidates' chances of winning in November but will utterly annihilate the Republican Party we all work so hard to build in North Carolina."
So are these two items linked? Claude Pope, another Central Committee member says he’s not at liberty to discuss specifics but added this, "There are some issues surrounding the security of servers and the systems. Which compelled the party to abruptly shut down those systems a week or so ago. I don’t remember the exact date."
And the party says it’s investigating the situation.
The no-confidence vote in Hasan Harnett leaves him with three choices, resign, face expulsion from the Republican party or find some way to fight and keep his seat. He has yet to say what he’ll do.