North Carolina Republican Party hits ‘reset,’ elects new chairman

NCGOP Convention 2019
Concord - The 2019 NC GOP Convention. Image by NC GOP

CONCORD — Michael Whatley’s “Reset in Raleigh” campaign slogan resonated with North Carolina Republican Party members at their annual conventions this past weekend, electing him to be their new chairman.

“This is a victory for all our North Carolina Republican activists this weekend,” Chairman-Elect Michael Whatley said in a statement.

“As we enter the most important election cycle in our lifetime,” said Whatley. “We’ll hit the ground running building the Party infrastructure, fundraising, and training volunteers in order to re-elect President Trump and deliver for all of our candidates up and down the ballot.”

In the week leading up to the vote, Whatley picked up high-profile national-level endorsements from U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Whatley hails from Gaston County and is an energy consultant with HBW Resources LLC, an oil and energy consulting firm with multiple locations, including one in Charlotte. Whatley is also the executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, an energy policy advocacy group headquartered in Houston, Texas.

The journey into politics for Whatley began in 1984 as a volunteer for U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’ campaign. He later served President Bush as a senior official at the Department of Energy and was chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. In 2016, Whatley helped organize Trump rallies across the state.

Whatley’s “reset” campaign theme was like that of Jim Womack, who campaigned to “revive” and reunify the party.

It had been a three-way race between Whatley, Jim Womack and John Lewis, but the vote count revealed a two-way race between Whatley and Womack. When it came down to voting, Whatley came in ahead with over 50% of the vote to Womack’s 45%. Lewis was a distant third with around 4.24% of the vote.

Womack, a former Lee County commissioner, ran against Robin Hayes in 2017. A West Point graduate and an Army veteran with 20 years of service, Womack worked in state government in the Information Technology department before joining a private IT company.

Lewis had been serving as the assistant legal counsel to the State Board of Elections but left to take the role of General Counsel for the NC GOP after the party’s long-time legal counsel, Tom Stark, passed away suddenly in December of 2018.  Lewis ran on a platform that included a bigger focus on Senate and judicial contests in 2020.

Whatley succeeds Robin Hayes who was indicted in April on federal charges in connection with a bribery and wire fraud case involving North Carolina’s largest political donor, Eli Global’s chairman and founder Greg Lindberg.

The indictment charges Hayes, along with Lindberg and two other associates, of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery in connection with programs receiving federal funds. Hayes was also charged with aiding and abetting and with making false statements to the FBI.

Near the beginning of 2019, Hayes had signaled he would run again for the chairman post, but on the first of April, Hayes reversed course, issuing a statement that he would not run for the chair position again in June. On April 2, Hayes was indicted in the Lindberg case.

Joining Whatley on the leadership team is Miriam Chu, of Moore County, who was elected as vice chair.

“I can’t wait to get started working on behalf of North Carolina Republicans,” said Chu in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chairman-Elect Whatley in what will be the most important election cycle of our lives. We win when we work together.”

About A.P. Dillon 62 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_