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Inner turmoil in NC GOP after first African American chairperson censured

The Republican Central Committee in North Carolina voted yes on a no-confidence resolution last week that censured its chairperson Hasan Harnett, the first African American to hold the post. 

According to an N.C. GOP memo, Harnett, who assumed the position in June 2015 despite Gov. Pat McCrory and many other Republican leaders endorsing his rival, was censured on the basis of "gross violations of the party's rules."

Claude Pope, Harnett’s predecessor as chairperson of the state Republicans, said in a statement he was disappointed by the necessity of such a vote.

“The work of the party must carry on in an environment of mutual trust and respect with our leaders,” Pope said. “It became painfully evident that this was not to be the case with this chairman.”

Harnett expressed his frustrations on Facebook, where he said the allegations were silly tricks, attacks and lies, and during an interview with the radio station WCQS he said he felt persecuted by party insiders, whom he collectively refered to as Republicans Anonymous.

“We have… (N.C. GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse) hiding behind a committee, and in that committee there are faceless individuals who won’t go on record for anything,” Harnett said on WCQS. “It’s about the Republicans Anonymous trying to put pressure on me and to cave in to something that is not true.”

The Central Committee said in the GOP memo that Harnett compromised the security of the party’s website, attempted to remove his rivals from the committee without following proper protocols, prematurely publicized confidential proceedings and failed to meet fundraising goals.

Harnett and the party establishment have been at odds since he was elected chairperson, said Mitch Kokai, spokesperson for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“Disagreements that were in place among various elements of the Republican Party at that time have now become much more hardened differences between two different camps,” Kokai said. “This has been something that has been brewing ever since the election… (and) now it’s come to the surface in open confrontation.”

Harnett oversaw the impeachment vote against Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, from the RNC and a vote of no confidence against Woodhouse — two establishment politicians who opposed Harnett during his election. Both votes, taken in January, were unsuccessful.

The public sparring continued earlier this month when Harnett’s official email address was deactivated. While the Republican Party said the account was disabled in response to a security issue, Harnett sent an email to Woodhouse from his personal account.

“I mean seriously, is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman of the NCGOP state party through?” Harnett said in the email. “Or is it because I am not white enough for you?”

He has since declined to comment on whether he believes his race was a factor in his censure.

Harnett and the committee also sparred over the price of attending the Republican National Convention. Although the committee traditionally sets the price, Harnett began advertising a lower rate without its consent.

Party leadership said it suspects Harnett attempted to hack into the state website to try and replace it with his own website in order to advertise reduced convention fees.

“All these disagreements, (which) in the past might have been something that you debate in the boardroom, and then you come forward with a unified front in the end, are being played out in public,” Kokai said.

Harnett has refused to step down as chairperson and has demanded an end to the infighting.

“These types of 'witch hunts' will not only devastate our Republican Candidates’ chances of winning in November but will utterly annihilate the Republican Party we all work so hard to build in North Carolina,” Harnett said in a Facebook post. “The solution is simple. STOP.”

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