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Senate Race Brings Controversy to MeckGOP Fundraiser

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meckgopA controversy is brewing within the Mecklenburg County Republican Party.

On March 15, the Party’s annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner will be held at the Carmel Country Club. This event is the single largest fundraising opportunity held every year for the County Party, which is by and large responsible for it’s own funding.

It has not been uncommon for the ranking Republican legislator to address the Party faithful during this event in years past, however, this year adds a new wrinkle.

In Mecklenburg, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis is the legislator scheduled to give the update. This has been confirmed by Party leadership, even though it has not specifically been advertised as part of the program.

Speaker Tillis is one of eight Republicans who filed to run for the US Senate seat currently held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

The controversy? None of the other seven candidates is being allowed to address those assembled.

This puts the Party in the awkward position of essentially elevating one candidate above the others, which is a direct violation of Article 7, Section G of the Party’s Plan of Organization.

“Each Officer and each Member of the State Executive Committee shall refrain from utilizing the powers and dignity of his or her office or position in any Republican Primary for public office at any level.”

Clearly, using the powers of office to determine who gets to speak and who does not in this case gives clear favor to one candidate at the expense of the others.

When word of this situation leaked last night, attempts by those in opposition were made to reach out to Party leadership. When no answers were quickly offered, Adam Love, a member of the State GOP Executive Committee, sent a mass email in an effort to apply pressure to Brad Overcash, the Chairman of the MeckGOP.

Included as part of his email is the following:

“To provide one candidate in a crowded and competitive primary election exclusive access to donors and activists while denying it to other Republican candidates is not only an unacceptable demonstration of bias, it’s also short-sighted and unwise.

This is precisely the sort of finger-on-the-scale tactic that angers supporters of other candidates, and can lead to voters sitting at home in November. It puts me in mind of the now-infamous rail-roading of rules changes slammed through at the 2012 RNC Convention in Tampa, passed over the roaring objections of hundreds of delegates.

More than anything else, the Republican Party needs unity of purpose and strategy to defeat Kay Hagan and re-take the United States Senate. Key to that unity is fair and equal treatment of ALL candidates by the party leadership.”

Included in the email were the personal cell phone number and email address of Chairman Overcash. It could be said that including a cell phone number in a public email before even the first hints of dialogue took place could be perceived as over aggressive.

The email itself is spot on.

Love went on to say in a written comment not part of the email that,

“You know, no one is saying, “Don’t let Thom speak!” I don’t have a problem with him speaking, about the House or his campaign or the price of oranges. I’m simply saying that if he does, all the other candidates should be afforded the same opportunity as well.”

Response to Love’s email has been mixed.

While most are in agreement, some have discounted his opinion as, “Your attitude sucks” and still others have attempted to rationalize the Party’s position by saying, “I appreciate your perspective, but as someone engaged in grassroots you know its paramount we have a strong candidate with name ID to win…. Although I may concede, having Mr. Tillis as a guest speaker at LRD could be perceived advantage, incumbency has privileges.”

In a phone conversation with Overcash, this author was able to procure the official Party stance on the situation.

At every Lincoln Reagan Day dinner, tradition holds that in addition to the featured speakers, both a state legislative and congressional update be given by the highest ranking Republican on the respective bodies.

This year, that would include both Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and 9th district Congressman Robert Pittenger. On Tuesday night, the MeckGOP board met. The situation was acknowledged by leadership and a vote was held to confirm that Tillis would retain the ability to give the traditional legislative update. The vote passed.

One board member shared some concern afterward, but the next day sent an email to the executive committee (the larger body of MeckGOP leadership) outlining the situation. This is how the issue made it’s way into the public dialogue.

The board is a smaller body made up of roughly 20 members of the larger executive committee. Their input, while valid, does not necessarily echo the views of the majority of the larger committee.

Overcash maintains that, “The Party is not taking sides in the primary. Every candidate in attendance will be recognized and each is allowed to have a brief biography read. Every candidate will be allowed to speak at the March 29 County Convention. It is tradition that the highest ranking GOP legislator be given the opportunity to give a legislative update, and we feel it would be more controversial to sway from tradition and ask another legislator to present instead.”

He acknowledged that if this were a stand alone event, that Tillis would not be invited to speak. The decision is purely based on tradition and history.

He also mentioned that none of the other candidates had yet made reservations to attend the event.

The acknowledgement that a stand alone event would not include Tillis speaking suggests to this writer that there is understanding by leadership that this move is controversial and fundamentally the wrong stance to take. That doesn’t seem to sway opinion.

This writer, admittedly in opposition to allowing only one candidate to speak, thinks that either all candidates should be allowed or none. Fairness is of utmost importance, and this decision truly does represent a slap in the face to those who recognize a single candidates speaking ability to be tantamount to endorsement.

If you are opposed to the seemingly biased operation of the County Party, please share your opinions with them. There has apparently already been a great deal of communication, but the more the merrier.

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