By: The Observer Editorial Team
The Beaufort County Republican Party Convention met on Saturday March 25 at Southern Acres near White Post. There were approximately 105 delegates representing the 21 Beaufort County precincts. They will meet again for this same purpose in two years.
Joseph Stalin is the historic master of the political purge. He killed more than 20 million people that he simply did not like. While there are no Republicans dead from this purge, I get the distinct feeling that many of the liberal Republicans who now control the Beaufort County Republican Party have not ruled out some kind of severe punishment as a possibility.
For weeks the faction of the Beaufort County Republican Party ruled by Carolyn Garris, Paul Varcoe, Keith Kidwell, John Rebholz and Frankie Waters, to name a few, have been considering severe measures to control the conservative wing of the Republican Party. They have, for weeks, been spreading rumors that security in the form of law enforcement would be required at the convention to control the leadership of the conservatives, namely Hood Richardson. They claimed that Richardson, in addition to being ill tempered, was abusive, domineering and disrespectful of everyone.
To that end they had at least one sheriff’s deputy in attendance and made gun toting Keith Kidwell, Sergeant of Arms. Kidwell made a point of subtly showing his fire arm in addition to accusing Richardson of making threats.
Paul Varcoe a member of a south of the river precinct which was seated on the other side of the meeting room showed up at Richardson’s Fourth Ward table, took a seat and announced the he was there to control Hood Richardson and to see to it that he was not abusive. At one point, while standing near the table Varcoe inserted himself into Richardson’s conversation and pushed against Richardson while yelling at the top his lungs. Richardson advised Varcoe that if the touched him again he would file charges of assault. Eventually someone convinced Varcoe that he needed to return to his precinct and sit at their table. He had no right to be present at the Fourth Ward meeting. While at the Fourth Ward table, Varcoe proceeded to give instructions to his supporters on what to say and how to vote. If you do not know Varcoe you should avail yourself of that pleasure.
Keith Kidwell made a point of strutting around the room, pulling his coat back so one could see the pistol he was carrying. Finally he removed his coat, making sure all could see that he was armed.
We support the right to bear arms. However, a political convention is not the place for this kind of force.
One of the issues was a changed in how we elect members to the County Republican Executive Committee. Since the beginning of Republican time in Beaufort County there has been a “minimum” of five people on the Committee. There has not been a maximum number. All party factions were represented by volunteers to be on the committee. The liberal Republican insiders voted to limit the number of people to 21. They made a list of the people they wanted to be on the Committee. They nominated these people individually. Two additional people were nominated. The total came to 23 nominations. Almost half of those who had already put their names forward under the old rule did not even attempt to seek seats under the new rule. Conservatives realized they were not welcome.
Keith Kidwell, who had dominated the convention, made a motion that rather than vote for members to be on the committee, that we vote for two members not to be on the Executive Committee. That vote resulted in two prominent conservative leaders, former longtime Tea Party chairman Buzz Cayton and former General Counsel to the State Republican Party, Steve Rader, who is also a former Beaufort County Republican Party chairman and one of the few local people who has been inducted into the NC Republican Party Hall of Fame, being thrown off the Committee, and the remainder of the nominees being elected. Make up the rules as you go.
The result of that is there is little to no representation of conservative Republicans on the Executive Committee. Only the liberals are represented. This includes those people who have been accused of Party disloyalty, for supporting the Democrat candidate for sheriff. The accused are Frankie Waters, Kelly Cox, Jimmy Whichard, John Rebholz; and Paul Varcoe. Waters and Cox had been forced to resign just a few months ago for party disloyalty.
There was considerable debate over the changing of disloyalty provisions in the rules. Those who have been most disloyal now want any Republican who supports any opposition candidate or criticizes a Republican to be declared disloyal. The use the term “Any Republican” is significant because we are a free speech nation. Party disloyalty has always referred to those in the party who have a special duty to preserve the Party. Now the wording refers to “any Republican” person. This becomes a free speech issue. It also means the Party Leadership can punish any person who is registered as a Republican they do not like. The whole thing here is to suppress dissent within the Party. To these people, it is all about power. Their power. The next primary will be very interesting.
Keith Kidwell misinformed the Convention when he described the loyalty part of the new rules. He then insisted that Hood Richardson was lying when Hood accurately read the first sentence of the proposed changes.
Steve Rader made the argument that the effect of the proposed change was to confer on the County Party the same (if not more) discipline rights than the State Party has. Rader pointed out that he knew the meaning of the wording used in the State regulations because he wrote them. His experience is significant, his having been General Counsel for the State Party. Rader was overruled by Kidwell and his faction.
There is a very good chance the State Republican Party will force Beaufort County to adopt a reasonable definition of disloyalty.
Disloyalty is a significant issue because Carolyn Garris has allowed disloyalty on a grand scale and now the same people who have been disloyal want to punish their political enemies for saying they are disloyal with new disloyalty rules. Take particular note that Frankie Waters is sitting on the Executive Committee having made a cash donation to the Democrat candidate for Sheriff. Disloyal Frankie Waters now sits on the Beaufort County Executive Committee while loyal Republicans are barred from it.
Tim Melton, a conservative Republican, ran against Carolyn Garris for Chairman. Because of the drawn out time, almost five hours, of the convention and the actions of Varcoe and Kidwell, many people left the convention in disgust. Almost every time they created an incident, people left the meeting, disgusted. Almost all of them were Tim Melton supporters. We estimate the number at between 20 and 30 people. Had they stayed the entire time, Melton may have won.
All of the above are bad times. However, the conservative Republican effort in Beaufort County is alive and well. The Conservative Republican Club will carry the banner. Republicans need to be aware of the disloyalty issues and the hatred these people have of conservative Republicans. I know, they all claim to be conservative, but their actions betray them.
Charles Hickman said:
( April 1st, 2023 @ 8:17 am )
Stan, You're right. A lot of the people we see now I'd never heard of then. But on the other hand, plenty of the folks are still around.
( March 31st, 2023 @ 1:50 pm )
Charles: There is a big difference between those days and these days ... Few of those people, today, so angry about the prospect of mayber sharing the party with the far stronger Republicans, were are a party to the Beaufort County GOP then.
Charles Hickman said:
( March 31st, 2023 @ 9:59 am )
Steve, I well remember the 2013 Beaufort County Republican Convention, because I was the outgoing chairman in that convention. You're right. A different faction was well in control that year and it was very tempting to close access to the party to those who had treated many of us so atrociously very recently - including me. We had the power to do it, but we didn't do it. We didn't do it for the good of the party and for the good of our community.
More mature people need to step up and be leaders in this regard, for the good of the party and for the good of our community.
Big Bob said:
( March 31st, 2023 @ 9:24 am )
Hood doesn't have a billion dollars. Trump gets away with it because of the money. If you dont have the money then treating people poorly comes off....different.
( March 31st, 2023 @ 7:58 am )
Bubba: It goes deeper than that. There are some Trump supporters, who sense it is fashionable to be that way in Beaufort County; who are quite derisive of The Hood. Maybe if Commissioner Richardson had done a very popular reality show, it would be different for them.
I will agree to this, like the President, The Hood is a lighting rod that better serves as a divining rod for the best path to good self-government.
( March 30th, 2023 @ 8:35 pm )
This is just like national politics. The Never Hooders are the same breed of cat as the Never Trumpers. Both groups put style over substance, and both groups expand their hatred to lots of others than the targeted politician. Trump and Richardson are much the same, dependable supporters of the taxpayers and America First principles but who are sometimes rather shrill and sometimes do a bit too much name calling. Both make posts on the internet that are sometimes controversial. That gets the establishment's panties in a twist. Look for a local version of the twisted Lincoln Project. Maybe they will call it the Sherman project or the Langley Project. Richardson should be called the Trump of Beaufort County.
( March 30th, 2023 @ 4:03 pm )
Big Bob: It was Kidwell, and yeah, your ending comment was a little bit funny ... at least I thought so.
One has to give credit where credit is due. Humor is elixir of commonality.
Big Bob said:
( March 30th, 2023 @ 3:33 pm )
I'm curious, in an earlier posting it was said one man was walking around the meeting with a gun on his hip. I forget who. Is that allowed? If so, you should all do that at the next meeting. You know, just to be safe.
Steven P. Rader said:
( March 29th, 2023 @ 4:41 pm )
Politics should be about policies and principles, NOT personalities. When politics get driven by personalities, it leads to factionalism and devisiveness. Unfortunately in the last few years we have been seeing the personality demon raise its ugly head, and it has been coming from both directions here in Beaufort County. Neither group is innocent, although only certain individuals in either group are the main sources of discord. If we are going to maximize our Republican vote in the critical 2024 election, we need to unite the party and drive a stake through the heart of the personality monster. That is going to take some work from both sides if it is to succeed.
We have seen people with solid conservative records on both sides falsely denounced by some on the opposing side as "RINOs" (Republicans in Name Only). Granted that there are some liberal Republicans who would seem to fit that definition, but the term has been applied also to some of both sides who clearly do not. There are players on each side that want to completely eliminate the other from county politics. There are some who want to denounce anyone who does not join their own hatred of a major player on the other side and even broadly apply derisive names to them. None of this is healthy for building a united party to beat the Democrats. We need to find a foumula to tone down the fighting and name calling and start working together.
The first Beaufort County Republican convention I attended in 1979 was a good example of how things ought to go. In spite of a rather personal battle between the Wilkinson and Ratclliff factions, after the county officers were elected, all the key players of both groups were welcomed onto the executive committee and the party went forth united to battle the Democrats. That has been the way it has been with most county conventions since that time and the way it should be.
The stakes are incredibly high in 2024. Our base Republican vote in Beaufort County is high enough that the danger of actually losing the county is virtually non-existant, but we must maximize the GOP vote in counties like Beaufort if we are going to carry the much closer state of North Carolina. A divided party is less able to do that.
The first set of GOP conventions, county to state, that I attended in 1973 was a formative experience for me as to the imperative of avoiding factional bloodbaths. That year the new Republican governor, Jim Holshouser, decreed he was entitled to handpick the state GOP chairman, and many in the grassroots cried BS on that. That led to bitter "take no prisoners" winner take all battles in many counties and districts in the state to totally eliminate whichever side ended up in the minority in that particular county.
I had a front row seat to all of that because state GOP chairman Frank Rouse appointed a College Republican to each of the state convention committees and as state CR vice chairman, I drew the Credentials Committee. I heard many hours of credentials challenges and what happened in county after county. Our committee meeting adjourned about 4AM. My own county, Mecklenburg had been relatively peaceful because our county plan of organization was structured so that a total cram down by one side was not possible, so I was shocked and appalled by what I was hearing from so many counties around the state.
I also had a front row seat for the consequences of that intra-party bloodbath that played our in the 1974 election. As the new state chairman of the College Republicans, I had a seat on the state Republican Central Committee for that election. A bitterly divided party could not get its act together to properly support our candidates. We lost 14 of our 15 state senate seats, 27 of our 35 state house seats, 2 of our 4 congressmen, and our one statewide incumbent on the ballot, Attorney General Jim Carson, as well as having our US Senate nominee trounced.
Both sides comprehended that we needed to get things back together, and representatives of both agreed to back Bob Shaw of Greensoro as a unity candidate for state chairman in 1975. At county and district conventions, those who had been kicked out two years before were welcomed back into the fold and the party started to heal and build back.
Having watched that play out in 1973-74, I am not at all pleased with seeing the same demons arise in my own county.
This convention, I stayed out of the chairman's race to concentrate on major issues with the plan of organization I cared deeply about. One was preserving a formula for the at large members of the county executive committee that was crucial to preserving party unity. I had successfully led the fight to stop a similar change at the 2013 county convention that came from a different group. Unfortunately, this time with a more polarized convention, we were not successful. The other involved a provision on party disloyalty that butchered a provision that I had myself written during one of my stints on the state Republican plan of organization committee. Unfortunately, standing up for principle on the Plan of Organization seems to have put a target on my own back.
If we want to maximize our Republican vote from Beaufort County in 2024, it is time to bury the hatchet somewhere other than in the back of the other side. We need to find a formula to get people back together and concentrate on fighting the Democrats.
( March 28th, 2023 @ 6:55 pm )
John Steed: Instead, the local party spends great effort granting succour to so-called Republican commissioners, the ones who work within a long established, Beaufort County GOP legitimized Center - Left Coalition to work in their bipartisan effort, with 2 Democratic Socialist commissioners, to govern on issues of budgeting, policy, oversight, while power sharing by the slimmest of margins when there is a 5 to 2 "Republican" majority.
John Steed said:
( March 28th, 2023 @ 11:42 am )
Our country is facing an existential threat from the far left that wants to destroy our Constitutional Republic, and local Republicans are involved in this sort of catfight?? It should be all hands on deck to stop the radical Democrats.
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