Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
This article appeared in the March 15 print edition of the County Compass' Beaufort Observer section.
This is the second installment of our series on the politics of local legislative races. In the first installment we reported on the adoption by the Beaufort County Republican Executive Committee of a motion to express dissatisfaction to the N. C. Senate GOP Caucus about members or employees of the caucus becoming involved in the selection of candidates without involvement of the local leaders.
We reported that indications are that Raleigh-based GOP leaders were involved in recruiting Arthur Williams and Jerry Evans, both former Democrats who recently switched parties, to run in local legislative races. Williams is running for the House and Evans is running for the Senate, after first announcing that he would run for the house. Both announced publically that they had been courted by GOP leaders in Raleigh.
Sources in Carteret County indicate that something similar was done in the Senate District 2 race where Randy Ramsey was reportedly recruited to run against Norm Sanderson.
The Beaufort GOP Executive Committee discussed the role of Raleigh GOP leaders in the candidate selection process and after some discussion they voted unanimously to express displeasure with how the Williams and Evans recruitment had been done.
Charles Hickman and his wife Velma are members of both the local GOP Executive Committee and have been members of the State GOP Executive Committee. Both voted for the motion.
Mr. Hickman said:
"I don't think state leaders should get involved in the local primaries. If they are going to do so they should work cooperatively with the local leadership. It is unrealistic to expect the local leaders to work for candidates that they had no part in helping recruit. It is the local activists that do the work, particularly to get voter turnout. The process should work so that as many people as possible will work to support the candidates that the voters nominate. I believe that people should feel free to run in primaries without the pressure of outside interests and money making it impossible for them to do so. Let the voters decide. Then ideally everyone gets behind the nominee for the General Election. If big money and powerful people outside Beaufort County select the nominee either by recruitment or by support with money it distorts the process. People outside Beaufort County ought to stay out of the process until after the voters have selected a nominee."
Buzz Cayton also is a member of the Executive Committee, along with his wife Chris. Both voted for the motion. Mr. Cayton is also the chair of the Beaufort Patriot TEA Party.
Mr. Cayton said:
"I am alarmed about how this situation with Arthur and Jerry developed. For me it is not a Republican issue. It is an issue of insuring that candidate selection is a grassroots process and open to everyone. One of the reasons for the growth of the TEA Party is the disgust that many of us have with "Backroom politics." The Williams/Evans/Ramsey situations smell of Chicago-style Machine Politics and that is one of the things many of us believe is wrong with our government today. Someone interested in running for the legislature ought not have to go get the blessing of someone in Raleigh. And the Big Money in Raleigh ought not be able to closeout good people seeking to be the nominee. This is an important principle of open, honest government and we need to fight against Machine Politics in this state, by either party. We've had entirely too much corruption in recent years and many TEA Party members were counting on the Republicans putting a stop to the Jim Black/Marc Basnight/Mike Easley/Beverly Perdue way of doing business. But this situation looks like the Republicans are falling into the same trap the Democrats did. It causes many people to think "they (politicians) are all the same." And when they come to believe that, they come to believe that their efforts don't make any difference and that is dangerous. What I fear is that if a candidate gets nominated who is viewed as a puppet of the Machine, the local workers will simply pass up that race."
Republican Hood Richardson, who ran against the Democrat Machine Boss Marc Basnight in 2010 and came closer than anyone is recent memory to defeating what was generally considered to be the most powerful politician in the state who had controlled literally millions of dollars over the years as Senate President Pro Tem, talked at length about the system. He said:
"I did not seek any help from the Raleigh crowd when I ran. I did not want to be beholden to them, win or lose. I just worked hard and spent much less than did Marc. And I almost won. I would have won if the Republican Party had been unified. But I don't want to win if it means I have to be somebody's puppet. In this situation with Arthur and Jerry I believe that if either one of them gets the nomination that many Republicans will sit out the race in November and the Democrat will get elected. So the way Raleigh is playing this is just plain stupid. They don't understand the way it is out here in the real world. They think they can sit in Raleigh and hob nose with lobbyists and control the show. But I don't think the people in the First or Second districts are going to allow that. The Senate GOP Caucus is making a bad mistake."
"Another bad thing about this game is that it selects candidates who are expedient. They have to be controlled. They go with whichever way the wind is blowing rather than standing on principles. And that is exactly what is wrong with government in this country today, at the local, state and national levels. We've got Beaufort County commissioners who run as "conservative Republicans" and then when they get elected they vote with the Democrats. And just look at some of the recent votes in Washington, DC. You can't tell the difference between Democrats and many Republicans. When people see this they just give up on politics and when that happens the corrupt power brokers run amuck. It's a serious problem and we've got to correct it. I think outsiders should stay out of the primary process."
Chris Cayton explained why she voted for the motion at the Executive Committee. She said:
"I think it is important that a person run in the political party that best fits their principles. And if you stand on principle you can't just up and switch parties one day and run honestly for the other party's nomination without abandoning the principles you previously held. And if you can do it without batting an eye then that says to me that you can't be trusted to be a principled representative of the people who elected you. Principles matter. Principles matter more than getting elected. I say if a person honestly changes their principles they should work in that party for a reasonable period of time to demonstrate that they have changed. But I'm real skeptical that a leopard every changes his spots. It can happen, but it can't happen overnight. What we need in government are men and women of principle. Flip-floppers are not principled in my book unless they carry the burden of proving otherwise.
In the third installment in this series we will focus on how operatives in Raleigh were involved in the Senate District 1 primary."