Fetzer stepping down in wake of GOP wins

Staff writerNovember 21, 2010 

— Just weeks after leading the state GOP to a historic election win, Tom Fetzer, the party chairman, said that he will resign in January, five months early.

Fetzer, 55, a political consultant and former mayor of Raleigh, has just started a family and said Saturday that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and 4-month-old son. In a news conference, Fetzer said he had told a state party committee about his decision earlier in the day.

"This is an entirely personal decision on my part," Fetzer said. "As a new husband and new father, I have other priorities now, which I need to tend to. As I told the [Republican] Executive Committee, I lived the first 54 years of my life for me, and now I'm living it for someone else."

Fetzer's star has risen greatly with his party's election success. He was credited with helping Republicans win both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in more than a century. He also helped his friend U.S. Sen. Richard Burr to an easy re-election win.

He beefed up the party's fundraising after several election cycles in which Democrats routinely outspent Republicans by at least 2-to-1. The state party raised $3.3 million from July 1 to mid-October, more than double the amount raised two years ago.

Asked about persistent rumors that he planned to run for office again or become a lobbyist now that his party holds the reins of power in the legislature, Fetzer said he didn't plan to seek election and had no firm plans about his next job.

"I have had some overtures, but I have not even had preliminary discussions with anyone yet about what I might do," he said.

The intensity that he brought to the job took its toll. Fetzer said that one day this summer, he drove on party business from his home in Wilmington to Cherokee and back, covering more than 1,000 miles.

He said that several times he had left home in the morning before his son awoke and returned after he was asleep, and that he wanted to end that.

Still, he said, the job has been great in many ways.

"The weeks before the election were very exciting, because I had felt for 18 months that this was going to be a big election, and it was," Fetzer said.

"It's not many times in life - it's rare, actually, in my experience - that you work very hard for something and you are rewarded with a resounding victory, and that's what happened for us on election night."

As party chairman, Fetzer worked to undermine Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to put his party in a better position to challenge her in 2012. He pressed the State Board of Elections to investigate her for unreported campaign flights. He also filed a complaint that led to Perdue, Senate leader Marc Basnight of Manteo and others returning more than $100,000 contributed illegally to their campaigns from a Wilmington businessman.

Fetzer said Saturday that adding the governor's office to the GOP's list of prizes was critical.

"As I told the Republicans gathered today, we just won the D-Day invasion. The Battle of the Bulge is in two years, and it will be the more important and decisive of the two here in North Carolina."

Fetzer told The Associated Press that former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes has indicated that he would seek the chairman's job. Hayes lost his seat in 2008 to Democrat Larry Kissell.

Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill contributed to this report.

jay.price@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4526

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