RALEIGH — Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican, tossed foam footballs into the air Tuesday as a crowd of about 200 hollered and cheered. They waved signs that bore messages Halifax Mall isnt used to seeing on Mondays: Stop abortion now, and Thank you McCrory.
Conservatives gathered behind the Legislative Building for Thankful Tuesday, a meeting planned to give constituents a forum to thank their legislators for their hard stands on taxes, voter ID, abortion and other issues.
The foam footballs bore links to an Americans for Prosperity website, Back in the Game N.C. It highlights the Republican playbook for turning the state around with income tax reform as the star player. Almost all of the evenings speakers applauded the legislature for giving preliminary approval Tuesday to a sweeping tax bill that would lower personal and corporate income taxes.
Our legislators have given us our first step today towards serious tax relief and reform, said Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperitys state director. Youll have significantly more money in your pockets if you pay income taxes, he continued, eliciting more applause.
The Moccasin Creek Minutemen and N.C. Republican Party organized the rally, along with several other groups. Dee Sams, a co-founder of We the People Franklin County Patriots, said she was impressed with the turnout, despite pulling off organizing Thankful Tuesday in about a week.
It was not a protest, but a peaceful get-together, said Carol Jones, a Raleigh resident who has lived in North Carolina for 41 years.
We worked so hard to get these people elected, she said, emphasizing her appreciation for the tax plan. If that hadnt started (to move through the legislature), I would have hollered and whistled for that.
A group of about 25 Republican legislators took the stage early on in the program, waving and thanking attendees for their appreciation. Speakers kept the focus on taking the states reins from a Democratic Party that they said had plunged North Carolina into debt and overregulated business.
But speakers also mentioned Moral Mondays, the weekly liberal protests that have criticized the exact policies GOP supporters congratulated on Tuesday.
This is so much nicer than Monday, right? asked Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Matthews. Well see (tax) relief in 14 and in 15. Were working real hard on putting it back together.
Clarence Henderson, a conservative speaker who demonstrated to end segregation in a 1960 Greensboro sit-in, gave a keynote speech on how essential Republican politics are to the American spirit.
Theres been a great misinformation, he said. The Democratic Party has been taking credit for being the inclusive party. We need to reach out to the minorities and tell them the true story. The facts speak for themselves.
At least one Moral Monday protester attended the event: Caroline Tervo of Wilmington, an intern at Progress N.C., said she came out to better understand the other side.
I dont think this is truly representative of constituents, she said, citing the recent dip in Gov. Pat McCrorys approval rating.
But the predominantly Republican legislature is proof enough for Robert Charlton, a professional musician in Hillsborough. He said the radical changes taking place in the state hes called home for 12 years compelled him to come to Halifax Mall to show his thanks.
He said McCrory has a long way to go, but I like his ideals.
I feel like I lost the country but I feel that I won North Carolina in 2010.