N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett’s party email account was shut off this week, and he blamed Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse in a racially tinged episode that highlights strife between the two leaders days before the state’s primary.
Harnett sent Woodhouse a scathing email from a personal account accusing him of trying to undermine the party’s elected leadership.
“I mean seriously, is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman of the NCGOP State Party through?” Harnett wrote. “Or is it because I am not white enough for you? You keep pushing the limits. I guess time will only tell what your real plot and schemes are all about against me.”
The email was posted by The Daily Haymaker, a conservative blog. Harnett confirmed by phone that the email is authentic but declined to comment further.
Woodhouse said multiple party officials’ email accounts were shut off Tuesday to address a “security issue,” but he said he hadn’t reached out to Harnett to let him know about the problem.
“I’ve been focused on resolving the issue,” Woodhouse said in an interview.
Asked whether he has tense relations with Harnett, Woodhouse responded, “Not at all.”
In his email, Harnett called on Woodhouse to restore his account immediately; he wrote on Facebook Wednesday afternoon that he could use the account again. The party’s vice chairwoman, Michele Nix, also reported that her email had been shut down.
“Everything the chairman wrote is correct,” Nix wrote in an email to The News & Observer late Wednesday. “I was told it was a ‘Security Breach’ and for my own protection it was shut off. However, I have my suspicions it was in retaliation for the Call to Convention issued by the chairman and that one or more Central Committee members are directly involved.”
The NCGOP is planning its annual convention in May. Harnett has sought to lower the price of admission so more activists could attend and help elect party leaders, including delegates to the national convention.
“The delegates to the (state) convention are confused about which price to pay, and this will have a greater impact on attendance,” Nix wrote.
Harnett, in his email, called on Woodhouse to work with him to elect Republicans and run the party.
“Why are you fighting me?” Harnett wrote. “I have brought sound ideas to the table and have bent over backwards to make great things happen for all of us at the NCGOP.”
Harnett, a Cabarrus County businessman who is popular in the tea party movement, was elected last June as the state party’s first African-American chairman. His election, with support of hundreds of party activists, surprised many observers. Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and many other Republican elected officials were backing Gastonia attorney Craig Collins.
A smaller committee of Republican leaders, known as the Central Committee, selected Woodhouse, who is white, as executive director in September. He is a frequent TV commentator and a former state director of the conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity.
The executive director handles the party’s day-to-day operations, while the chairman leads committee meetings and schedules conventions.
Daniel Rufty, the GOP’s 12th Congressional District chairman, said Harnett and Woodhouse haven’t gotten along from the start. He said the rift mirrors divisions at the national level between outsider candidates such as Donald Trump and the party’s establishment.
“The establishment hates Hasan and has been actively working against him to make sure he’s not successful,” Rufty said.
He added that the NCGOP should join other state parties in allowing the chairman to hire the executive director, rather than have a committee make the appointment.
“You get this conflict of interest” under the current system, Rufty said. “That’s a ticket for failure, for sure.”
Two legislators who serve on the Central Committee, House Rules Chairman David Lewis and Rep. Pat Hurley, said they didn’t know details of the email dispute.
“I’m not aware of a particular ‘rift’ between Harnett and Woodhouse,” Lewis said in an email. “There is certainly enough work to do to keep everyone busy.”
Hurley said she didn’t know whether the Central Committee will take action. “I don’t know what we do from here,” she said.