Hayes, Womack vie for chair of N.C. GOP

North State Journals exclusive Q&As with the incumbent and challenger

Christine T. Nguyen—North State Journal
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes

WILMINGTON — On June 2-4 N.C. Republicans will converge on the Wilmington Convention Center to set a course for 2018 midterm elections and beyond. The party has already announced its lineup of speakers that includes Kellyanne Conway as keynote speaker at the convention lunch on June 3. Conway made history in 2016 as the first woman to run a winning presidential campaign and is currently senior White House adviser. Also speaking at the luncheon is Lara Trump, a native of Wilmington, and alumna of N.C. State University. She is daughter-in-law of President Donald Trump. Among the party business and pep rally atmosphere, state Republicans will select a new chairman. Current Chairman Robin Hayes took the reins in 2016 just before the presidential election during a challenging time for the party. Lee County GOP Chairman Jim Womack is challenging Hayes to lead the party, saying it is time for a change.Robin Hayes, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party North State Journal: Why have you decided to run for re-election 
to the N.C. GOP? Robin Hayes: I have enjoyed being chairman of the N.C. GOP immensely. We were very successful in the first go-round not because of me but because of people who really care about the party and enjoy rallying around my chairmanship and doing those things we need to do turn out the vote. To be the only battleground state to win against [President Barack] Obama in the previous election. The change to take the successes that they created in the previous election and to build stability and credibility for the future seems more than important enough for me continue on and build on the success that our folks have come up with. What were the biggest challenges when you took office in 2016? The party was broke, we were just a couple of days away from closing the door, may not even a couple. Morale was sagging, nobody knew exactly what was going to happen and who was in charge, and we had just had a very interesting presidential primary and here we are on the eve of a presidential election and the party was in complete disarray. What I found was not surprising but it was heartwarming. We had a bunch of folks, especially young people, who were ready to go. They just needed someone to support them, remove a few obstacles and, most importantly, bring enough money through the door to support our limited staff, pay for our billing, lights, overhead. When those basics were attended to quickly we were positioned to raise a record amount of money for all of our candidates. … I’ve got a long record, it says here “is a guy you can trust,” and when I come asking you for an investment in the Republican Party people immediately started answering the phone. We were able to maintain a financially strong and rewarding relationship with the Republican National Committee, [and] also some folks from out of state because they saw stability at the top so they were willing and able to step up. It was a pretty rapid turnaround. Don’t think I’m taking credit for it, my record stands for itself. How can you build on 2016 and tap into the new Trump voter in N.C.? The party’s main function, turning out the voter, we have those mechanics and people in place. Once Trump had the nomination he didn’t have the staff here, but we were ready and willing and able to fill in those gaps… I was asked to emcee a Trump rally. I have never seen the energy — you could just feel it pushing out the walls of that building. This momentum brought people who have not typically voted before, they were motivated to vote for Trump and it carried down through the ticket. … Those folks are still out there. They need to know what they did was critically important, and we appreciate them. … My vision for the future of the party, which is to have a much more enthusiastic and active precinct-level organization in all 100 counties. I will be asking our precinct chairmen to broaden their vision of what the party can be. If we demonstrate in our neighborhoods that we care about our fellow human beings, putting resources where they are needed, build relationships, the sky is the limit. We also have a lot of good young people coming along: teenage Republicans, college Republicans, women’s groups. We are so much stronger as a team. The party needs to continue to grow, never leaving its core principles. We are pro-life, we believe we are endowed by our creator, we believe in free enterprise and less government. That’s what makes up the tent, and there is plenty of room.Jim Womack, Lee County Republican Party chairman North State Journal: What made you decide to run for chairman of the N.C. GOP? Jim Womack: I truly was recruited by the grassroots, and my campaign is being propelled by grassroots activists all over the state. We have at least three activists in each of the 13 congressional districts and more in some. The number is growing by the week with people who are disaffected by the party and really want to see a change in the way the party operates, the way the party is governed and the way the party recruits new members, as well as how it vets candidates. From top to bottom there is great disaffection within the Republican Party that is demanding change. I believe I am the change agent that can bring those reforms into the Republican Party, keep us operating smoothly, keep money in the bank, and implement the changes at the same time. What changes would you like to see in the party as you look to the 2018 midterms and beyond? We’ve run the party like a country club for decades. We’ve never really run the party like a business. That is unfortunate because if you don’t run it like a business you lose things like strategic planning, goal setting, and this party doesn’t do that. There’s no strategic plan for the North Carolina Republican Party other than the generalized goal of winning elections. How do you run a party with no goals? How do you make an organization as complex as the N.C. Republican Party synchronize without a plan? It’s happenstance; you hope you’re going to win. There’s no logistics, no distribution scheme for materials. The word logistics does not exist in the lexicon of the party. It’s dysfunctional. You look at this and you say to yourself, “You can make that work better, you can help that party achieve its goal of winning all elections in the state of N.C.” We have to be planning now for 2018, recruiting and vetting candidates, and fundraising. The way you raise funds in a business is you have to build value in the party. … We need to be able to brand the party in such a way that people see the value of having Republicans in charge — smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation. Take that message to constituents and convince them to invest in the Republican Party. How can the party grow its base of voters? This is when you move people into your party and change the demographic, make room in the tent for others. By October unaffiliated voters will outnumber us. First, because there’s no incentive for them to affiliate, but also because the federal government has shown itself to be ineffective regardless of who is in charge. We have to give them a reason to come back. Eighty thousand did for Donald Trump in 2016, and we’ve done nothing to really welcome them into the Republican Party and make them feel respected. We haven’t put them in governance, and I’m not sure the folks in Raleigh know how to do that, bring them in and get the active. For young people, we have to appeal to them through social media and win over active young Republicans. Get them to network in social media, put them in your governance structure, and get them to bring you in and share that message.