My Turn: What's important about the GOP Executive Committee? | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Some 113 delegates and 87 alternates will assemble Tuesday night (3-26-13) in the Beaufort County Republican Convention. Among the tasks to be accomplished are the election of officers and at-large members to the Executive Committee and the selection of delegates to the district and state GOP conventions to be held later this spring.

    We've already written about the political aspects of the convention. We'd like to offer some comments here on the practical aspects of the challenge that the delegates will face.

    My two years of serving on the Executive Committee have taught me some things I never knew about political organizations before. I thought, when I first agreed to serve, that it would be an opportunity to "have an impact" on Republicanism in our county, and to a lesser extent in our district and state. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

    The Executive Committee has almost no impact on the political operations of the party, locally or statewide. I can't recall a single decision the committee has made that changed anything of significance in the last two years.

    Now the chair and first vice chair do have a more significant role, simply because they have a vote on the district and state executives committees. But what I have learned is that in terms of how much of an actual impact the State Executive Committee has it is also very minimal. This is true for a simple reason: The party's candidates control the real decisions. And anyone who can pay the filing fee and is registered as a Republican can become a candidate, no matter what the Executive Committee thinks. Furthermore, the candidates control the campaign. It is the candidate that determines the positions they will take on issues, not the party structure.

    The party structure plays this game of adopting a Platform and Resolutions. But they make zero difference in the real world. My experience has been that most candidates don't even read the Platform or the Resolutions and if they do they still decide what they will stand for or against, regardless of what the Platform and Resolutions say. And think about the last time you made a decision about how to vote based on what you read in a party platform or its resolutions.

    So much for the practical importance of the decisions the Executive Committee makes.

    So what's the big deal about who gets elected and which faction of the party controls the Executive Committee? Truth be told, there is no big deal.

    Now if there is a vacancy in an elected office the committee suddenly becomes very important, as Arthur Williams learned when Marc Basnight resigned. But whether Arthur realizes it or not, it was not the membership of the various county executive committees that matter as much as it was what the party bosses decide. But filling vacancies is one of the few important things the Executive Committee might do in the rare event of a vacancy. And it does recommend to the Governor who to appoint to the local Elections Board, but when was the last time you ever felt your life impacted by what the County Board of Elections did? See my point?

    But the decisions made Tuesday night in selecting the officers and Executive Committee will be very important, even if the positions themselves don't make important decisions. What they actually do is important.

    The County Officers and Executive Committee are the key to voter turnout. And that is where they make a real and actual difference. And that is especially true in Beaufort County due to the voting demographics. Elections are won or lost by Republican almost exclusively as a result of who turns out to vote. And the unaffiliated registered voters are just as important to the outcome as the registered Republican voters.

    While voter turnout is influenced more by the candidates and the "hot button" issues, it is at the margin that the Executive Committee makes the difference. Often that margin is less than 10% of the votes cast. If they do a good job the Republican candidates win--albeit, by a small margin. But if they don't do their job the Republican often loses. Now for the political aficionado among our readers, we acknowledge that the previous statement does not apply to incumbents with strong name recognition, especially at the county level. For example, Hood Richardson does not win or lose elections as a result of anything the Republican Party does or does not do. But Bill Cook would not be Senator Cook were it not for the work of the Beaufort County Republican Executive Committee in 2012.

    So in certain specific circumstances who is serving in the county officer positions and Executive Committee positions can make a world of difference. But the reason, and the way, they make a difference is not by debating and deciding seminal public policy issues, but by such things as making phone calls, networking, sending out mailers, providing information to those who walk into the headquarters, going door to door, putting on fund-raisers, distributing yardsigns, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc.

    So our suggestion to the delegates who will vote for officers and particularly the Executive Committee members Tuesday night is to vote for people who will work. The officers need to be people with leadership skills to motivate volunteers. The Executive Committee members elected need to be people who will devote immense amounts of time to doing thankless and often mundane tasks.

    If the Executive Committee does its job, very few people will know and even fewer will know which members actually did the work. If the committee fails to do its job many will know the results. That's just the nature of the beast.

    Unfortunately, I suspect less than a dozen people voting Tuesday night will know that the most important person they can vote for is Larry Herwig. Larry worked countless hours to help Bill Cook and Michael Speciale get elected. He drove thousands of miles, often back and forth from Dare County and he no doubt put up more road signs than anybody else did. But few know about what Larry did. And therein is the fallacy of the process that will play out in the Courthouse Tuesday night.

    And without saying too much I will suggest, very few delegates will know how much better job Charles Hickman did than the two previous county chairs. Even if the results speak for themselves, few will understand why, because they are not privy to the inner workings of the county Executive Committee. The success in making nearly a clean sweep in the 2012 elections will not be the pivotal issue Tuesday night. And therein again is the fallacy of the way political parties function in our system.

    Serving on the Beaufort Republican Executive Committee is reminiscent to me of having once upon a time serving several terms on my church's Building and Grounds Committee. If we did not do our jobs, everybody knew about it. If we did and the building was well maintained and the grounds neat and attractive and we didn't have to spend a lot of money on contractors then nobody paid any attention. Of such is the nature of the Executive Committee.

    Then we will see whether Conservatives or RINO's make better worker bees.

    Delma Blinson writes the "Teacher's Desk" column for our friend in the local publishing business: The Beaufort Observer. His concentration is in the area of his expertise - the education of our youth. He is a former teacher, principal, superintendent and university professor.
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