Infighting: Owen Holds On to Post as GOP Head
John Owen withstood a challenge from a candidate backed by a former chairwoman to hold on to his position as chairman of the Moore County Republican Party.
Owen claimed 118 votes to the 95 that went for challenger Gerald "Ged" Taylor of Aberdeen during the GOP's county convention Saturday in Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College. The two and a half-hour long convention was marked by frequent and energetic protests and expressions of support for various candidates.
The vote reflected a continuing division within the party stemming from a bitter 2006 primary in which Joe Boylan defeated veteran state Rep. Richard Morgan, a former House co-speaker. Boylan received a tremendous amount of outside help in the primary, including the state Republican Party, which targeted Morgan for defeat. Boylan held off two unaffiliated challengers in November to win election.
Owen has come under heavy fire from Boylan's supporters who accused him of being in Morgan's camp during the primary and then for not doing more to back Boylan in the general election.
Former party chairwoman Elizabeth Kelly orchestrated the movement to recruit Taylor, who is also a member of her church, Calvary Memorial. Kelly has been praised by Morgan's enemies for turning on him after he made a deal with Democrats in 2003 to make him co-speaker for the House with Jim Black.
In a side issue not related to partisan politics raised during the convention was the debate over the proposed annexation of Pinewild Country Club by the village of Pinehurst. That was a factor in the elections last year.
"We have been doing the right thing for the past two years, and I repeatedly reached out to the Kelly supporters during my first term in office," Owen said in a statement released after the convention.
Owen also said that he had tried to work with Taylor and his supporters.
"I do not believe that Moore County Republicans should be subject to outside influence from the state party or by individuals who may have their own agenda within the local organization," Owen said. "Neverthe-less, we will organize our new team, formalize our goals, work within the Plan of Organization and will, when appropriate, invite Kelly supporters to join with us.
"Let me make it clear, however, we do not intend to permit the party apparatus to be used as a platform for individuals who have their own mission."
His comments referred, at least in part, to state party participation in the primary election campaign last year. The state party directed some funding toward the Boylan campaign, a measure that drew criticism because traditionally the party leadership does not promote individual candidates until after the primary.
Morgan's power-sharing deal with Democrats brought down the wrath of the state party four years ago. In his final two years in the House, he served as speaker pro tem. Morgan did not attend the county convention.
Kelly was present but was not seated as a delegate or an alternate.
Owen also said that the Pinewild annexation issue has no bearing on the Moore County Republican Party. He said there are Republicans on both sides of the issue, which is a nonpartisan issue involving a municipality.
Attempts to 'Railroad' Fail
George W. Little, acting as presiding officer, kept the agenda moving. James Rhodes acted as parliamentarian, and Neil Godfrey was appointed sergeant at arms. Bonnie Doughtery gave the opening prayer.
Early in the election for chairman, an effort to elect Owen by acclamation was derailed by protest from the gathering, and the motion was ruled out of order by the parliamentarian.
Both Taylor and state Rep. Joe Boylan protested the motion for the acclamation vote before the call for other nominations was made.
"It is unfortunate to try to railroad a nomination through," Boylan said.
And finally it was Boylan who placed Taylor's name in nomination.
Boylan's nomination of Taylor was significant because Kelly supported his nomination prior to the primary election last year and also because of complaints raised that the party leadership was not sufficiently vigorous in supporting Boylan in the general election.
The general election campaign was further complicated when Manila "Bud" Shaver, a registered Republican, secured enough names on a petition to run as an unaffiliated candidate. Gerald Galloway, a former Democrat who was registered an Independent, also ran as an unaffiliated candidate. Boylan held off the two challengers to win the election.
With two names in nomination for the chairmanship, each candidate was given an opportunity to make a brief campaign speech.
Taylor said he would actively seek out and support GOP candidates and would encourage debate on issues. He also expressed support for limited government, lower taxes and traditional family values.
Owen said that 106 names had been added to the Republican registration roster in the two years he has served as chairman. He also told of plans to begin work immediately on a strategic plan for the party.
At first, debate centered on the method of casting votes for the chairmanship -- secret ballot, voice vote or standing vote. Finally, it was decided to take a vote by asking each delegate to stand up for his or her candidate. Precinct chairmen were asked to count the numbers and report the results aloud.
This required a roll call of the 24 precincts. Three of the 216 certified delegates cast no votes, and although there is no technical provision for abstentions, those who did not stand up for either candidate were listed as abstaining.
The result was dramatic as delegates rose from their seats when candidates' names were called. A pause of a minute or so followed as votes were counted. Then the chair responded with the results when the precinct was called.
In the end, all four candidates placed into nomination by the nominating committee were elected. Walt Bennett chaired that committee.
Challenges were raised for two other offices, but the office of secretary, held by incumbent Do Shaver, went unchallenged. Shaver was quickly re-elected by acclamation.
And in the case of treasurer, the incumbent, Lydia Boesch, also received a vote of acclamation after nominee Donald VanRoosen withdrew and asked for the acclamation vote.
However, two votes were needed for vice chairman. The nominating committee recommended Lane Toomey. Ellis Hardison, the incumbent, and Taylor were subsequently nominated.
This time the same voting strategy, by standing, was followed, and Hardison was eliminated on the first round. Toomey won 107-92 on the second vote.
At this point, Little called for a round of applause for Taylor, who, despite two losses, picked up a substantial numbers of delegates.
Delegates then went through the extended process of choosing five at-large members of the Moore County Republican Executive Committee, and again the names advanced by the nominating committee came out on top. The winners were Lisa Caddell, Charles Holbrook, Bill Thurman, Gail Prevatte and Jim McGillan.
Among other names nominated for the executive committee were former County Commissioner Virginia Saunders, Jamie Boles, Bill Garner, Ellis Hardison, Art Rembert Jr., Ed Kennedy, and Ralph Redmond. Before the first vote was taken, however, Redmond withdrew his name.
Delegates did vote on a series of recommended changes in the county party's Plan of Organi-zation, an apparent effort to clarify issues arising over the method used by one precinct to choose delegates to the county convention.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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