UPDATE: In response to this article, Chairman Harnett released the following statement:
“Just to clear up any confusion, I enthusiastically support the governor and senator. I have gotten nothing but support from them and vice versa. The NCGOP is united and energized for victory in 2016.” – Hasan Harnett, NCGOP chairman
RALEIGH — Hasan Harnett’s background as a leadership coach and motivator was evident Tuesday, when he sounded very much like the cheerleader for the party and the grass roots that helped elect him chairman of the North Carolina Republican party.
Harnett says he wants to energize GOP headquarters on Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street, declining to say whether he will make staffing changes but saying that “over the next few weeks, we’re probably going to dust off a few things, rearrange a few furniture pieces, and raise that energy level.”
Harnett, 39, was owner of Success Mastery Leadership, a business that provides advisory, training and media services to businesses and individuals. There is no doubt he is comfortable in the party cheerleader role, an important one for any party chairman.
But the anti-establishment sentiment that helped elect him to the post worries some who say he may have trouble financing party activities. Harnett disagrees.
“We are a united party,” said Harnett. “There is tremendous energy in the caucuses – the House and Senate. I’ve been there a couple times, shaken some hands, gave speeches, [and had] one-on-one conversations.”
Still, Harnett characterizes his conversations with traditional large donors to the party as a work in progress.
“They’re reaching out to me now. And, as you can imagine, this is [week] two… the opportunity to really focus in on what matters most right now, and the No. 1 thing is building relationships, and positioning everything for execution of our plan – which is to win.”
Harnett did not share specific strategies for electing Republicans, calling his plan “the great surprise.”
“We are working very hard to make sure that we have everything in order,” Harnett said. “What that means is, during the next week or two we are going to unveil that plan to the rest of the statewide community.”
But even as he reaches out to elected Republicans and donors and works on his plans for unity and victory, Harnett refuses to back away from his criticism of previous party functioning as in need of repair.
“In the past, there’s been a real divide – where there wasn’t a conversation. But [now] we are open and warm to receiving the leaders and the grass roots – all the way up to the governor’s office.”
Gov. Pat McCrory, who was the first to call Harnett to congratulate him on his win, might be surprised that Harnett would not say whether McCrory and Sen. Richard Burr are the party’s best chances to hold onto those seats.
“I would say that we need to retain Republicans in all areas of where we are today, and then add some more for tomorrow,” Harnett said.
But Harnett did say that he would not recruit candidates to challenge McCrory and Burr in party primaries, saying it is not his job to get involved in primary races.
“Anybody who wants to run for any particular race, they need to go out there and make it happen.”
Harnett, who is the state party’s first black chairman, talked a lot about having conversations with voters, especially voters who do not traditionally vote Republican.
“It’s about having a conversation, understanding where people are coming from and relating to that specific area, and gaining a friendship – [gaining] trust.”
As he did during his campaign for chairman, Harnett maintains he is well positioned to help the party gain votes from African-Americans and other groups with whom the GOP is not usually associated strongly.
“What that entails is going into communities where we haven’t been before and making sure our message is not only played, but heard,” said Harnett, who has served as director of minority outreach for the state party.
Harnett says leadership is the key.
“It’s about being a leader – and I’ve been a leader for as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s about taking what works, listening to new ideas, opinions and thoughts, and putting together a great formula for us to win, and have those victories for 2016 and beyond. “