Things could be better for North Carolina Republicans right now. After significant victories in 2012 and 2014, GOP policymakers are in a dominant position in the Tar Heel State, but as things stand, the right’s hold on North Carolina may not last much longer.
The debacle surrounding the anti-LGBT HB2 continues to haunt the Republicans who rushed the law through, and the consequences are likely to linger. Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was apparently caught off guard by the entire controversy, continues to struggle with the mess he helped create.
Voters have noticed. A conservative group released a statewide poll on Friday that found McCrory losing his re-election bid to state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) by 10 points, 46% to 36%. And while Mitt Romney won North Carolina four years ago, this same poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in North Carolina by 12 points.
Sen. Richard Burr (R), meanwhile, is also seeking a second term this year, despite a low approval rating and a dwindling lead over his Democratic challenger.
Perhaps the state Republican Party can help calm the waters and get the GOP slate back on track? Not anytime soon they won’t: WRAL reported over the weekend that the state party just fired its own chairman.
Members of the North Carolina Republican Party’s nearly 600-member member executive committee voted Saturday to remove Hasan Harnett as chairman, ending a months-long leadership struggle that focused GOP establishment on its own internal drama rather than campaigning against Democrats.Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse made the announcement shortly after 5 p.m., saying that the proceedings had been “somber.” The committee found that Harnett was responsible for violating the party’s plan of organization and “gross inefficiency.”
If North Carolina Republicans are hoping this reduces some of the intra-party pressure, they may be disappointed.
As we discussed a month ago, party insiders didn’t want Harnett elected in the first place, but rank-and-file GOP activists ignored McCrory’s and Burr’s wishes. The conflicts arose soon after, escalating to the point that Republican officials barred Harnett from his own party headquarters in Raleigh, right around the time they shut down his official email account.
I can’t say with any confidence whether Harnett’s ouster was fair, but the WRAL’s report noted that right-wing activists and North Carolina Tea Party leaders saw Harnett as one of their own, which means the weekend’s drama generated a fresh round of ill will.
Given that all of this is happening about six months before Election Day, the state GOP’s unraveling comes at a rather inconvenient time.