NCGOP Chair Jason Simmons on economy, immigration and ’24 key races

Simmons said the state’s Democratic Party’s messaging is out of alignment with N.C. voters

Jason Simmons succeeded Michael Whatley as chair of the North Carolina Republican Party in March. (Courtesy North Carolina Republican Party)

RALEIGH —North Carolina Republican Party Chair Jason Simmons says the economy, inflation and education are the top issues for Republicans ahead of the 2024 elections.

“You know, it’s been a great transition. We have a wonderful team,” Simmons said of succeeding Michael Whatley, who left to take over as chair of the Republican National Committee in February.

Advertisements

“The main difference, for me professionally, has been standing in the back of the room versus now you’re in the front of the room,” Simmons said.

Despite the change in leadership, Simmons said the NCGOP’s messaging won’t change.

Simmons emphasized that inflation and the economy, along with illegal immigration, are the biggest issues driving voters this cycle. Simmons laid responsibility on President Joe Biden’s policies for all three.

“So with the economy, people are continuing to pay more every day for the same goods and services that they did four years ago to the tune now of about $1,000 more per month for the average family,” Simmons said.

“You go fill up your grocery cart, you go fill up your car at the gas station — you’re paying more and you’re paying more,” said Simmons. “And everybody feels that and they recognize that that’s a direct correlation with the policies that Joe Biden implemented day one.

“You look at the border crisis, the migrant crime that’s plagued our country, we’re seeing it here in North Carolina. You see the fentanyl that’s pouring over the border and how it’s killing friends, families across our communities, again, directly correlated to decisions made by Joe Biden. These are not just unintentional consequences of his policies. These are direct consequences of policies that were made and made deliberately, and so those policies are having devastating impacts on our communities, on our families.”

Simmons said these issues are the same at the state level but with the addition of public education. He said making sure students have a high-quality education should be the priority as well as putting students first and “not catering and kowtowing to the teachers unions or the special interest groups that would rather see status quo on our education.”

He said Gov. Roy Cooper’s “education state of emergency” is nothing more than lip service.

“There is nothing that Roy Cooper has done that’s actually helped students and families,” said Simmons. “Pure publicity stunt to cater to his special interest groups.”

Simmons said even fellow Democrats are noting the party’s problems, like longtime strategist James Carville saying, “Democrat messaging is full of sh–.”

“Anytime he’s sounding the alarm bell for Democrats has usually proven out to be accurate,” said Simmons. “And this is one more alarm bell where again James Carville is accurate.”

The NC Democratic Party and its chair, Anderson Clayton, have focused on rural voters and “delivering North Carolina” for Biden.

“I welcome Anderson to go and take her message, and that of Joe Biden, anywhere in our state because it’s a failed message,” said Simmons. “It’s a message that does not resonate with voters, and especially in rural North Carolina, where the values of the Democrat Party are no longer aligned.”

Simmons said Anderson and Biden have “real explaining to do to the voters of rural North Carolina.”

“There’s no measurable account that you can point to today that North Carolina voters are better off than they were four years ago,” said Simmons. “And Anderson … any attempt that she makes is a failed and deceptive message.”

The NCGOP held its yearly convention in Greensboro at the end of May, an event that included Vivek Ramaswamy, Eric and Laura Trump, and North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Simmons said the convention was an “overwhelming success,” and he added that the “biggest thrill” for attendees was having former President Donald Trump call in during the Friday night dinner.

“A welcome surprise by many, and being able to hear directly from the president, especially his frustrations for where the country is, as well as the lawfare that he’s had to endure sitting in a New York courtroom and not being able to get out and campaign,” said Simmons.

Simmons said one of the speakers, Robinson, is a “fantastic candidate” for the party in the gubernatorial race where he is facing state Attorney General Josh Stein.

Simmons said as people get to hear from Robinson himself instead of “being demonized by the left,” voters will see a candidate who “actually stands up for North Carolina families and the values that North Carolina families hold true.”

Simmons also highlighted the NCGOP’s efforts to ensure election integrity through poll observers and legal teams. He said their efforts have become a model for other states.

He expressed concerns about the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) actions on early voting plans that the NCGOP believes disenfranchises rural voters. The chief complaint is that the plans for 20 counties have at least 410,000 voters living outside a 15-minute drive-time to a polling site. NCSBE Director Karen Brinson Bell has refused to say why the plan submission dates were changed and, in a legislative hearing, blamed the change as being the idea of NCSBE Chairman Alan Hirsch, a Democrat appointed by the governor in May 2023.

On June 4, the NCSBE voted during a virtual meeting to move those plans forward without sharing or considering legal briefs and data showing a negative impact on rural voters.

Despite issues with the NCSBE, Simmons believes the GOP may be able to flip races in November, including House District 115 in Buncombe County, where Democrat Lindsey Prather is the incumbent, and Senate Seat 18, covering parts of Wake and Granville counties, currently held by Democrat Mary Wills Bode.

Prather will face Republican Ruth Smith. Bode is not running for reelection and Democrat Terrance Everitt will face Republican Ashlee Adams in November.

“I would say globally for any of our candidates, I’ll put our candidates up against any of the Democratic candidates because they’re going to be able to come with better experience, better knowledge and better plans on how to actually operationalize those departments to serve North Carolinians,” said Simmons.

Simmons is also confident about the state auditor’s race between Republican Dave Boliek and Democrat Jessica Holmes. Holmes is running for the seat after being appointed by Cooper earlier this year to the job after former State Auditor Beth Wood’s resignation following her accident with a state-owned vehicle.

Simmons said Boliek is “a gentleman that actually has knowledge and experience that he’s going to be able to bring to the job versus an individual who lacks a lot of talent in what she’s been able to achieve in that office.”

In the race for state superintendent between Republican Michelle Morrow and Democrat Maurice” Mo” Green, Simmons invited the press to “actually look and review at Mo’s background,” and said there are “significant concerns that we have about” Green as a candidate and his ability to serve students.

Simmons said the entire election could come down to another famous Carville quote: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

“You know it comes back down to pocketbook issues at the end of the day, as well as where do you believe the opportunities for your children and your grandchildren to be able to have a better future,” Simmons said. “And as we’ve seen what Democrats have done to the country these past four years, especially at the federal level, it’s had a devastating impact.”

He added that Cooper’s record 95 vetoes are symbolic of the fact “Democrats have not put our families first.”

“And so when you look at what Roy Cooper and the Democrats have offered up here in North Carolina, it’s been obstructionist,” said Simmons.

NCGOP Communications Director Matt Mercer, who was present during the interview, said he believes the mood of voters “turned” when students defended the American flag at Chapel Hill.

“You just felt there was such a hunger for people to stand up and fight the left that I think the whole tenor of what’s happening in the state changed at that point,” said Mercer, who was editor-in-chief of North State Journal before taking the position with NCGOP. “That hunger for leadership that Republicans are providing in this election is going to make a difference.”

About A.P. Dillon 1342 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_