County party convention finds Guilford Republicans in feisty mood

by Jordan Green

Candidates for office, party officials and true believers who gathered at an what was once a drug store in Jamestown on March 18 for the Guilford County Republican Party Convention bristled with righteous indignation and against President Obama’s plan to pass national healthcare reform.

More than a dozen Republican candidates from senatorial hopeful Larry Linney down to county commission contenders Samuel Spagnola and Myrene Stanley stood before the assembly making the case for limited government and reduced spending. The convention passed a resolution opposing the passage of the Democratic healthcare bill in Washington, and at the instigation of NC Rep. John Blust, the convention’s parliamentarian, added an amendment expressing that “we deplore the idea that the [US] House of Representatives can pass a healthcare bill without ever having of formal vote on it.”

Party Chairman Bill Wright chided some of first-time candidates for lacking a history of involvement in the party in the past.

“We’ve got quite a few people who have never run for office before,” he said. “I’m gonna get on you a little bit. There are a handful of people who volunteer a lot of time in the party, but a lot of you we’ve never seen before. Whether you win or not, we want to see you after the election.”

Dr. James Taylor, an anesthesiologist from Southern Pines running for the 6 th Congressional District seat, captured the spirit of grassroots conservatism pervading the assembly with a reference to the pending they have to press two for English,” Hurley said. “So this is the issue I really think we ought to pound home against Brad Miller. I’m willing to do that. I’m going to take punishment for that. It’s going to be controversial. I’ve got to be confrontational if I get the nomination. I’m the Republican conservative with the attitude in this primary.”

Only one of US Sen. Richard Burr’s three primary challengers showed up (Burr sent a surrogate). The sole senatorial candidate, a black former NC House representative from Buncombe County named Larry Linney, won applause lines when he said, “I come to you and I come a little late, but I come here as an American, not a hyphenated American.”

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Linney served a prison sentence in the 1990s for felony embezzlement and has been trying to get his conviction overturned. Linney now lives in Charlotte.

During his remark the has-been and wouldbe office holder tapped into a theme that is mobilizing the Republican Party this year.

“Most importantly, I come to you as an outraged citizen of this country,” he said. “We need to put a stop to Obamacare, and this whole socialist agenda.”

Some challengers charged that Republican incumbents have gotten too comfortable in office and have betrayed conservative principles. Samuel Spagnola, a blogger with an unflinching sense of conviction, is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Linda Shaw for the District 3 seat in on the Guilford County Commission. Shaw was unable to attend the convention because a county commission meeting was scheduled for the same night. The district covers Summerfield, Oak Ridge, Stokesdale and northwest Greensboro.

“I wish I could take my finger and say, ‘It’s the Democrats’ fault.’ But it’s not. We elect people — so-called conservatives in our own party — who’ve taken part in running up that debt just like everyone else, and now it’s time to pay the piper. I will not be that person. A lot of you might know me. I’m very active in the blogosphere. I have comments all over the place. And some people have said, ‘That’s a bad thing; you should never do that.’ I’ve never written anything I will not defend in front of anybody. And the fact of the matter is I will tangle with these people, I will scrap with these people until I’m the last person standing if that’s what it takes. But it’s time to bring responsibility back to local government as well and bring us back to the kind of Reaganism and conservatism that made me join this party when I was 18. Votespag —healthcare bill.

“If these cowards in Washington, DC pass this legislation with reconciliation or deem it so, they don’t know the hornets nest they’re going to stir up,” he said. He later added, “You guys are at the front lines of the war we are about to fight. I believe that we are at the beginning of the second American revolution.”

Wright read a letter from Coble, which reflected the eight-term congressman’s characteristic gentility: “As you know, five others have filed for the Republican primary, and I welcome them to the political arena. I reiterate that this seat does not belong to me, and I am pleased to place my record before the voters and have them decide if they wish to send me back for another two years.”

Many candidates, including Jeff Phillips of Greensboro, one of Coble’s challengers,, made it a point to mention how many years they have been married to their wives. (Coble is a bachelor.)

John Faircloth, one of four candidates in a crowded Republican primary vying to replace retiring NC Rep. Laura Wiley in NC House District 61, prompted laughter when he introduced himself by saying, “I win one contest tonight: I’ve been married 52 years.”

Three congressional districts converge in Guilford County, making the county GOP either a crossroads or a far-flung outpost in North Carolina’s conservative political arena. The other two congressional districts, 12 and 13, are held by Democrats based respectively in Charlotte and Raleigh. Between the two, the 13 th Congressional District stretching from Raleigh to Greensboro and currently represent ed

by Brad Miller, is considered the one where a Republican candidate holds the best prospects.

Two of the four candidates in the 13 th district Republican primary, all of whom are based in the Triangle area around Raleigh, addressed the Guilford County Republicans.

Dan Huffman, a 47-year-old communications consultant from Wake Forest, sounded a theme developed by Sarah Palin last summer.

“We can’t have an Obamacare, which we’re talking about today, which has death panels to decide whether my 91-year-old grandfather, who lives in Hickory, will get some sort of procedure or not.”

Frank Hurley, a 69-year-old former Reagan appointee to NASA from Chapel Hill, accused the Democratic incumbent of drawing the district for himself, and said the Republicans will need a galvanizing wedge issue to claim it.

“We’re going to have to find at least one issue, which is a real grabber, which will rouse the Jessecrats to rise up and for once to vote for a Republican and retire this guy from public life and get a real job for the first time in his life. I think that issue is the amnesty that the Democrats are getting ready to grant for about 12 million illegal immigrants. That would be an enormous mistake with a tremendous cost in jobs, a tremendous cost in medical services, a tremendous cost in law enforcement resources and a tremendous cost for our national culture.”

Hurley referred to the conservative Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for Sen. Jesse Helms from 1972 through 1996.

“And I think what we have to do is insist that our children not only don’t have to press one two four-letter words put together — votespag. for English, but don’t get in a situation where com, if you want to help me in my effort.”

13 th Congressional District Dan Huffman exemplifies the conservative spirit in the Republican Party. (photo by Jordan Green)