Tea Party conservatives and GOP stalwarts display united front in political picnic

by Jordan Green

Bill Tidwell of Browns Summit said he will be voting solidly Republican in November, but that doesn’t mean he completely trusts the party.

“I’m hoping the Republicans don’t shoot themselves in the foot,” he said, “like George W. Bush because he spent like a drunken Democrat. He’s better than the clown we have now, because he’s spending like two drunken Democrats. We’re heading down the same road as Greece.”

Tidwell, who was one of about 250 people who attended Conservatives for Guilford County’s Take America Back Picnic at Bur- Mil Park in Greensboro last week, registered as a Democrat when he was 21 years old, then drifted into the Republican Party with the election of Ronald Reagan, quit in disgust during the second Bush’s presidency and then switched back from unaffiliated to Republican this year so he can help organize his precinct.

Tidwell was wearing a “FairTax” farm hat.

He said he has read the book several times, adding, “This is the best thing since sliced bread.”

During the Tax Day Tea Party, in April, Conservatives for Guilford County had made a show of keeping the local Republican Party at arms length to build a nonpartisan movement that would be inviting to conservative independents and Democrats. At this event, all the candidates were registered Republicans with the exception of unaffiliated Guilford County School Board at-large candidate Lisa Ingle Clapp.

The John Locke Foundation, a conservative Raleigh think-tank that is a stalwart of North Carolina GOP politics, was represented at the picnic by Vice President for Outreach Becki Gray, who said that Republican state Senate candidate and Tea Party organizer Jeff Hyde was among a group of more than 100 candidates that her organization has been helping.

“Our country is in trouble,” Gray told the activists. “We have a healthcare bill that no one wanted, that was shoved through Congress and shoved down our throats. Spending is out of control. National security is at risk. We finally have a state that has stepped up and done something about illegal immigration, and what’s our president doing? He’s going to sue that state. We have a government that wants to do everything for everybody with no concern for what it costs.”

A representative for incumbent Republican US Sen. Richard Burr addressed the assembly, and the candidate’s Guilford County organizer circulated through the crowd signing up volunteers.

The rising star of the event was Bill Randall, who handily defeated Bernie Reeves in a recent runoff for the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s 13 th Congressional District. US Rep. Howard Coble, the 13-term incumbent who represents the 6 th Congressional District strolled around the park with Randall, introducing him to voters before heading down to Davidson County for another event.

Randall offered the allegory of a person who breaks into a family’s house while they are away on vacation, washes the dishes, folds the laundry, cuts the grass and prepares a sumptuous meal for them to represent the role of undocumented workers in the state’s economy.

“There are illegals in this country who’ve not once gone to the emergency rooms, that are hardworking and industrious,” he said. “But that’s not the argument. Because, see, if you argue from the standpoint that they’re taking away in benefits, you’re disarmed when someone can prove that they’re not using them. Follow me. We need to learn how to craft our argument based on the US Constitution. And what’s at stake is the rule of law.”

At the state level, Guilford County Republicans are sharpening a message of fiscal responsibility and educational choice. Rep. John Blust has recruited Theresa Yon, a 39-year-old education researcher, to challenge veteran Democratic lawmaker Maggie Jeffus in NC House District 59. Jon Hardister, a 27-year-old mortgage executive, is challenging Democrat Pricey Harrison in NC House District 57. Both are young, energetic and backed by their party, if not the campaign finance largesse that tends to accrue to longtime incumbents. Blust, who has held office in the NC General Assembly as a member of the minority party for more than a decade, is a role model of sorts for these two.

“Now, the opposition likes to think that they are pro-child; they claim to be pro-education, pro-child. And one of the tasks we have to do is we have to take them off their moral high ground and capture it ourself, because you are not for the children in any way if you are willing to saddle them with $130 trillion in debt.”

“Child abuse,” someone shouted from the audience.

Randall, who lives in suburban Wake County, spoke with Clapp and offered to put her in touch with members of the Wake County School Board, whose majority is undertaking a school reassignment effort that preferences neighborhood schools over attempting to balance socio-economic diversity.

Clapp said during her remarks that she wants to see more accountability in the way the Guilford County School Board is spending taxpayer money and more transparency about disciplinary issues and violence in the schools.

“I have numerous e-mails and phone calls every single week since I’ve decided to run for school board at large from parents, and from staff and from teachers who tell me over and over the things that go on behind closed doors that nobody knows about because they’re acts of violence, and they’re pushed under the rug, so to speak, because we don’t need to know about it as parents and taxpayers,” she said. “I’m here to tell you: It’s time for us to face the music. We got to know what’s going on so that we can restore safety, discipline and respect back into our schools.”

Hungry for more news? Check out our blog,, for more stories.

Guilford County School Board at-large candidate Lisa Ingle Clapp chats with congressional candidate Bill Randall (right) and US Rep. Howard Coble at the Conservatives for Guilford County Take America Back Picnic at Bur-Mil Park on June 24. (photo by Jordan Green)