RALEIGH – Hasan Harnett woke up Monday morning as the new Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party. In an upset election over the weekend at the N.C. GOP convention, Harnett became the first African-American to head the state’s Republican party.
He defeated attorney Craig Collins, who had the endorsements of Senators Burr and Tillis, Governor McCrory and Lt. Governor Dan Forest. The N.C. Speaker of the House Tim Moore and N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger also endorsed Collins.
However, Harnett had an army of young campaigners plastering his name everywhere inside the convention hall, and led a high school marching band in to give his pitch to delegates. It was a winning combo.
In a social media post addressed to “Fellow Republicans,” Harnett said “I believe in a strong Republican party, one that stands firm on fiscal responsibility and strong traditional family values. I believe in a party that values life, family, and freedom. We must have a united Republican party headed into 2016, one that comes together to defeat the Democrats and the Clinton machine.”
Harnett’s company, Success Mastery Leadership, based in Harrisburg, N.C., identifies as a intellectual capital firm listing advisory, training and media services as their business functions. His background is in financial management and leadership training. His wife, Ayana Harnett, serves as Chief Intellectual Officer for the company. Last year he managed the campaign of Vince Coakley, who lost to Democrat Alma Adams for the U.S. House.
“As North Carolinians we are very excited and fully support Chairman Harnett,” said Earl Phillip, state director of the Republican National Committee’s African American Engagement Office. “It’s about the party and we will do whatever is needed to make sure that the party administration is successful.” Phillip ran the team that opened the engagement office in 2013, where Harnett become involved in the N.C. GOP.
Sources who have worked with Harnett on past projects say that he is a particularly talented speaker and able to motivate audiences. However, some expressed concerns privately that his fundraising and administrative experience is very limited, both of which are core functions of the chairman role.
“We’re seeing a different mentality, there are a lot of different people coming aboard, there are a lot of people saying: enough is enough. We’ve just got a different attitude – more of a fighting spirit. I think Hasan brings that fighting spirit,” said N.C. House Rep. Michael Speciale (R-New Bern). “Everybody will need to stay with him and stay on him, just like we would anyone else. We don’t elect him and go home.”
How the party’s biggest donors view Harnett will have an impact on its 2016 war chest. His first, and biggest, challenge is selling to them what he sold to delegates at the convention. Supporters hope that he is a fresh face with new ideas, able to bring the GOP message to the younger, more diverse voter.
Keith Kidwell, Beaufort County GOP Chairman, threw his support behind Harnett.
“I think Mr. Harnett has been in the trenches; I think he understands it, and I think he is a leader of the people. I believe he’ll do a better job that Mr. Collins would do.”