Guilford Republicans reject tea-party candidate

by Jordan Green

Guilford County Republicans elected Al Bouldin as their next chairman by a vote of 119 to 97 during their county convention on Monday night, denying a bid by tea-party activist Jeff Hyde. The election of Bouldin, who announced his candidacy only two days ago following the surprise withdrawal of Theresa Yon, marks a setback for Conservatives for Guilford County, a tea-party inspired group. Hyde, the group’s co-founder, had pledged to push the party in a more conservative direction. Bouldin will lead the party with Jon Firebaugh as vice chair, Nancy Bishop as secretary, Hallie Jessup as treasurer and Michael Picarelli as executive director.

Leaving the party convention, which was held at Vandalia Christian School outside of Greensboro, Conservatives for Guilford County members expressed disappointment, but pledged to remain active. “I think the party would be much better if it was Jeff Hyde,” said Isabella Adkins. “I will be just as active as I was before.” After the vote, Bouldin pledged to unite the party.

“I’ve worked in the past with Conservatives for Guilford County and Freedom Works and within the Republican Party,” he said. “Starting tomorrow, I expect to reach out to these people.” Bouldin attributed the strong feelings surrounding this contest to the heightened stakes of next year’s presidential election. “This is a very important election cycle, and everybody knows it,” he said.

“As Republicans we’re all united in our desire to advance conservative principles and help Republican candidates win.” Former state representative Laura Wiley nominated winning candidate Bouldin. Delegates said this county party election was more divisive than past contests. As a mark of the raw feelings surrounding the race, outgoing Executive Director Tony Wilkins said Hyde called him out during his speech. Wilkins quoted Hyde as saying that Wilkins can hang out with Nancy Vaughan, Jordan Green and Ed Cone, while Hyde will hang out with Thomas Jefferson.

The remark referenced this reporter, blogger Ed Cone and Nancy Vaughan, an unaffiliated Greensboro City Council member, who is married to Don Vaughan, a Democrat who fended off a challenge for his NC Senate seat last year. Celebrating the outcome afterward with friends at Stumble Stilskins, Yon likened her withdrawal from the race to a football endaround. “I had become a figure that was being attacked,” she said. “I wanted my team to win. I felt like they were the best ones for the party. Wednesday morning I started to worry they might not win, and I felt guilty that they might not win because of me.”

Yon said Hyde supporters had been making calls to Republican regulars predicting that if elected she would be exclusionary and unwelcoming. More recently, she said some of Hyde’s supporters made false statements to the effect that she would be a “puppet” for Marcus Kindley, a former county party chairman. “About four days after the precinct organization meeting, Jeff Hyde called me to tell me he was running,” she said. “He said to me on the phone: ‘Theresa, you’ll be exclusionary, unwelcoming, controlling and ungracious.’ I’ll never forget those four words.”

Prior to Hyde declaring his candidacy for county chair, Yon and Adkins had discussed the possibility of Adkins being appointed precinct organization chair for the county. Yon said in an e-mail on Tuesday that Adkins requested appointment to the position, and that she in turn set three basic conditions — that Adkins maintain a certain level of decorum when addressing the Guilford County Commission, that Adkins not speak to the press as a representative of the Republican Party and that she resign as treasurer of Conservatives for Guilford County.

Adkins notified Yon that she was no longer interested in the position of precinct organization chair in a Feb. 17 letter.

“Your request of me not to hold up a sign during a county commissioners or city council meeting violates my freedom of speech, which is protected by the Constitution of the United States,” she wrote.

“I cannot be part of a political class that is concerned with decorum and optics while the liberals are organizing neighborhood by neighborhood, institution by institution and taking over our country,” Adkins added.