RALEIGH – The Executive Committee of the N.C.GOP has voted by acclimation to appoint Robin Hayes as the new party chairman to replace Hasan Harnett, removed in a 200-79 vote earlier Saturday. Hayes served as the party chairman from 2011-2013. Sources indicated previously that a replacement chair would likely step back in to serve only until December when the Executive Committee will meet to approve the 2017 budget.
“I loved the time I served as party chairman. What I loved most was working with people,” said Hayes in an interview with Jones and Blount on Friday. “This would be an opportunity to step back up and thank the party for what it has done for me.”
The committee removed Harnett on Saturday, finding him responsible for violating the party’s Plan of Organization and “gross inefficiency” on a number of occasions, including his refusal to call the state convention with the ticket prices approved by the Central Committee. The vote comes after months of conflict between the party’s governing Central Committee and the chairman, starting with low fundraising and ending with allegations that Harnett may have sought to hack the convention website.
Last week, more than 200 members of the N.C. GOP Executive Committee signed a petition with the charges. A majority vote was required to find him responsible and a two-thirds vote of those present and voting to actually remove him. The intensity to remove him stepped up in recent weeks after the chairman publicly released a video of himself on YouTube sharply criticizing past and present leadership of the state party including elected officials. The pressure has even resulted in campaign mailers going out to members of the party criticizing the fallout.
The video was posted on Harnett’s website last week, but was later taken down. According to some Central Committee members, the release of the video came hours after Mr. Harnett sent a blast email to the larger Executive Committee members saying an agreement to end his conflict with the Central Committee was close. Members of the Central Committee said they offered him an alternative leadership position, putting him in charge of building grassroots support, if he would step down and save the party the public display of removing him, but were not successful in negotiating an alternative to Saturday’s proceedings.
Finally, seven former chairman of the party joined in a letter last week saying they are “disappointed and appalled” at the chairman’s performance and asked the executive committee to vote to remove him. The letter was signed by Hayes as well as former chairs, Claude Pope, Bill Cobey, Jim Hastings, Jane Rouse, Tom Fetzer, and Ferrel Blount. Pope was also on the short list to replace Harnett, but said his retail stores and family obligations prevented him from taking the post.
“We always have differing opinions, but preferably ones that are headed in the same general direction… We need to focus our attention on one of the most critical election years coming up,” said Hayes on Friday before the meeting. “We have to get our act together and I am confident we can.”