Rift Continues in County GOP
Three candidates for state House of Representatives have survived the campaign in good spirits, but some political operatives in the background apparently are still verbally slugging it out.
It marks a continuing, and often bitter, rift in the ranks of the Republican Party in Moore County. The GOP, which holds a decided edge on Democrats in terms of registered voters, has dominated the local political scene for nearly 20 years, despite splits within its ranks.
Over the years, some of the players have changed, and there have been shifting alliances within the party.
In the latest saga, one outspoken supporter of Joe Boylan, winner of the election, is calling on John Owen to resign as chairman of the Moore County Republican Party.
Ed Kennedy of Pinehurst, who made the charge, says he is speaking on behalf of a group of Boylan supporters, but not for Boylan himself.
Owen says he has no intention of resigning and will be available for re-election when the party holds its annual county convention next March.
Kennedy did not name the people described as supporting his call for Owen's resignation. He said these supporters agree with his point of view but "I'm not sure they would speak as stridently as I do."
In an e-mail message to The Pilot, Kennedy calls Owen "and his troop of incompetent 'Benedict Arnolds'" a failure for "their pitifully disguised attempt to throw the election for all local GOP candidates."
At the time of a brief telephone interview, Owen said he had not received the e-mail message sent to him by Kennedy. The message was not sent to Owen's personal e-mail address, and Kennedy said later that it was sent to the county GOP e-mail address, which Owen had not checked at that point.
Owen said the criticism doesn't bother him.
"I'm a retired Army command sergeant major, and I spent 22 years giving ulcers, not getting them," he said.
Owen said that if Kennedy does not like his leadership of the Moore County GOP, then he has the option of submitting his name to the nominating committee, the body responsible for presenting a slate of officers into candidacy at the county convention.
Failed to Back Boylan
Kennedy charged that Owen failed to support Boylan, winner of the May primary election, in the general election and took issue with advertisements urging voters to support Republican candidates but not mentioning those candidates by name.
He also accused Owen of supporting incumbent state Rep. Richard Morgan in the primary and reminded him that former GOP Chairwoman Elizabeth Kelly was similarly asked to resign two years ago after she openly supported Morgan's primary opponent, Peggy Crutchfield.
Owen denies supporting either candidate prior to the 2006 primary and cites the state party's Plan of Organization as his reason for remaining neutral. Owen has also been vocal in criticizing the state GOP for its part in supporting Boylan over Morgan in the primary. The state party not only made campaign contributions to the Boylan campaign, but also sent party workers to the community to help with the primary campaign.
Ferrell Blount, chairman of the state Republican Party, resigned his position last week amid rumors that he may seek statewide elective office in the future.
His resignation is something that Owen had been calling for since the primary campaign period.
"I'm elated that Ferrell Blount has stepped down as state party chairman, and I'm looking forward to healing our party at the state level as well as the local level," Owen said.
Owen went on to say that he did not support Manila G. "Bud" Shaver, one of two unaffiliated candidates for state House District 52.
Shaver, a registered Republican, filed as an unaffiliated candidate after the primary election, as did Gerald Galloway, a former Democrat now registered as Independent. Shaver retained his Republican registration throughout the campaign and, under state law, was not required to register unaffiliated in order to run as an unaffiliated candidate.
Although he is not a Democrat, Galloway did receive enthusiastic backing from a number of Democrats in Moore County, who were unable to field a candidate of their own for the state House seat in the spring.
'Walking a Tightrope'
Shaver said last week that Owen did not support him in the general election and expressed regret that the county chairman is being targeted by disgruntled members of his own party.
"I'm sorry John is being abused this way," Shaver said. "He was walking a tightrope in the election."
Shaver said he understood the situation and did not expect or receive support, official or otherwise, from the leadership of the Moore County Republican Party. He expressed awareness of sensitive issues facing the county GOP leadership but said he went into his candidacy fully aware that he could not expect support from his party.
"I conducted a very upfront campaign based on issues," Shaver said. "I didn't attack anybody. And Gerald Galloway followed suit."
Shaver has said from the beginning that his candidacy was not a gesture in opposition to Boylan, but a gesture opposing actions by the state GOP. He saw the state party leadership's actions supporting one candidate over another in the primary as a violation of the party's Plan of Organization.
He argues that if Boylan had won the general election with no serious opposition, he would be beholden to the interests of the state party, not the interests of the people of Moore County. Shaver says he now lends full support to Boylan as the county's state representative.
"I gave Joe Boylan a chance to win the election on his own, and he did," Shaver said.
'Bring the Party Together'
Boylan appeared to be distancing himself from the fray.
"I'm trying to help bring the party back together," Boylan said when asked about the allegations in Kennedy's e-mail messages.
Boylan said that Kennedy did help with his campaign by putting up signs and distributing material to potential voters. The Pinehurst businessman said he had not seen the e-mail messages and was unaware of their content.
As for the chairmanship of the party, Boylan said that would be up to the party's executive committee. Once he takes office in January, he will become an ex-officio member of the county executive committee, but that does not entitle him to a vote.
Boylan said he is busy following up on multiple obligations incurred as a result of his Nov. 7 victory at the polls. He faces numerous meetings in preparation for the new office and will be attending an orientation seminar conducted at the Institute of Government for new legislators. And all of a sudden, he has become a popular speaker for interested organizations in Moore County.
"My plate is full as it is," Boylan said.
Boylan is in the process of closing his campaign office but said he plans to set up a local office to accommodate Moore County people while he is in the legislature.
The unaffiliated candidacy of Shaver had its awkward side. A lifetime Republican and vigorous supporter of his party, Shaver was running against the nominee of his party. In addition, his wife, Dolores Shaver, is an officer of the county party. However, when the issue of her service arose, Boylan did not call for her resignation.
"John and I understood each other, that he could not support me," Shaver said, adding that opponents should be warned not to attack Owen too sharply. "They better be careful how they push him. He's a retired Army command sergeant major."
Kennedy also criticizes Owen for not opening a county headquarters this year.
Owen says the party is not required to operate a headquarters in election off-years -- those years when the presidency is not on the ballot. This year, in particular, was known as a "blue moon" election year because of its rarity as a year when North Carolinians were not voting for president, governor or a U.S. senator.
"I know a lot of people in Moore County who agree with Ed Kennedy," Elizabeth Kelly said this week.
Kelly chaired the Moore County Republican Party for five years and was defeated by Owen for the chairmanship two years ago. Owen was vice chairman at the time.
"I heard quite a few people make the same comment about John Owen, that he ought to step down. Although on the surface, he was supporting Republican candidates, we all knew he was supporting Bud Shaver," Kelly said.
Kelly also joined Kennedy in criticizing Owen for not opening headquarters this year. She said that under her leadership, the party always opened headquarters about three months before a general election, regardless of whether it was a presidential year.
She added that some Republican candidates used Boylan's headquarters to distribute their campaign material because the party had no county headquarters.
"The county party did not have headquarters except one some people in Robbins set up on their own," Kelly said.
Likewise she questioned why the county party did not dispatch cards bearing the names of all Republican candidates, including the names of candidates for nonpartisan offices who are registered Republicans. The cards listed such names as Boylan, Harris Blake for state Senate, Howard Coble for Congress as well as nonpartisan candidates for school board and the judiciary, Kelly said.
Kennedy says that failure to send the cards resulted in the loss of some nonpartisan offices sought by Republicans.
However, because the judiciary and school board are nonpartisan, in some races, Republicans were running against Republicans.
Voted Party Line
George Little, a longtime Republican leader, took a philosophical view of the differences among party members. A former county party chairman, Little was a candidate for governor in 2004.
During the administration of Gov. Jim Holshouser in the 1970s, Little served as state secretary of Natural and Economic Resources. The Southern Pines insurance executive now chairs the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees.
Little said Moore County is a Republican county and it would be extremely difficult for a Democrat or an unaffiliated candidate to win an election here. He said the registration numbers are simply too far apart.
"It didn't happen," Little said of the unaffiliated election endeavor. "People voted for the party."
People may grumble about their parties, but when election time comes around, they tend to vote for their party, Little said.
"All successful parties have factions and divisions, but they always come together in November. I don't worry about factions and divisions," he said.
Little said he shared similar sentiments in comments made to N.C. Free prior to the general election.
"It's healthy to have a dialogue," he said. "It's healthy to have differences."
Little said John Owen has done a good job as chairman of the Moore County GOP. He said that the party elects officers every two years, giving the executive committee an opportunity to change officers if there is dissatisfaction.
"John Owen has a good record, and the Republican Party can be proud of what happened here," Little said. "I don't have a beef with the party. I'm quite pleased with the party. I feel good about the party."
Kennedy was born and grew up in the High Falls community and returned to Moore County from Charlotte in 1984. He is now semi-retired from Southwynd Financial, a financial consulting firm. He lives in the Pinehurst C Precinct.
Morgan, who has served in the state House since 1991, now serves as House speaker pro tem. Previously he shared the co-speakership with Democrat Jim Black of Mecklenburg County.
The District 52 seat encompasses 22 and a half of Moore County's 24 precincts. The other precinct and a half are in District 54, represented by Democrat Joe Hackney of Orange County.
Morgan drew down the wrath of the state Republican Party when he became involved in strategy that resulted in the GOP losing a slim lead in the state House in 2003 at a time when the Republicans were sharply divided on their leadership choice.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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