Barry Saunders

A Republican is friendly with a Democrat, and some folks freak out – Saunders

Johnston County School Board candidate Summer Hamrick, a republican, right, poses with school board candidate Crystal Roberts, a democrat, left, and Hamrick's daughter Kaitlynd. Summer Hamrick's name was removed from the Johnston County Conservative Voter Guide after Hamrick tweeted this photo out.
Johnston County School Board candidate Summer Hamrick, a republican, right, poses with school board candidate Crystal Roberts, a democrat, left, and Hamrick's daughter Kaitlynd. Summer Hamrick's name was removed from the Johnston County Conservative Voter Guide after Hamrick tweeted this photo out. Courtesy of Summer Hamrick

At least they didn’t throw her in the hoosegow, make her walk the plank or place a scarlet letter on Summer Hamrick’s forehead for the act of political treason she committed.

What did Hamrick, a candidate for the Johnston County Board of Education, do that was so vile, so reprehensible, so politically opprobrious, that the Johnston County GOP removed her name from its Conservative Voter Guide – essentially making her a non-person as far as the party is concerned in the November election?

I’ll tell ya, but you have to make sure all of the children are out of the room first. What Hamrick, a Republican, did that had the county GOP board vote “unanimously” to take her name out of the guide was have her picture taken with a Democrat.

That’s right: she consorted with the enemy.

You see, Hamrick’s daughter, Kaitlynd, is the 2016 Johnston County Outstanding Miss, and as such is obliged to take pictures with various people. While at the Acorn Festival in Four Oaks this month, Kaitlynd posed with her mother and Crystal Kimpson Roberts, a Democrat who also is running for the school board. (Roberts is my literary agent, but don’t hold that against her.)

Someone snapped a picture of the three of them – Kaitlynd in her red sash and crown bracketed by the two candidates – and Hamrick posted it to her Facebook page. A few days later, county GOP Chairman Patrick Harris called and told her her name was being stricken forthwith from the book of Right-thinking Republicans, aka. the Conservative Voter Guide.

Harris, though, assured me last week that it wasn’t the picture that got Hamrick ousted from the guide. “It wasn’t about the picture at all, to be truthful with you,” Harris said. “It was the caption she put with the picture. ‘It takes team to make it work,’” he read. “‘Here are two votes to make for Johnston County Board of Education. Summer Hamrick for Board of Education.’ And it has Crystal Kimpson Roberts” in the picture.

It wasn’t about the picture at all, to be truthful with you. It was the caption she put with the picture.

Patrick Harris, Johnston County GOP chairman

Egads! How does Hamrick think we’re going to have a government that works for the good of the people if Republicans run around talking to and posing with Democrats? Is it too late to get that scarlet letter out and affix it to Hamrick’s clothes, so that innocent children will know to flee her presence when she is nigh?

“Oooh, look. Isn’t that the shameless hussy who posed with a Democrat?”

“Watch your mouth, Jedidiah. There are children about. Thou shalt not utter the ‘D’ word.”

Harris, who was recently awarded North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, apparently drew the short straw last week, because he was the first Republican I reached after finding out about the problem picture.

“It’s nothing personal with either one of those candidates,” he said. “Mrs. Roberts is a Democrat and Mrs. Hamrick is a Republican. They’re both pleasant people, but the Johnston County Republican Party is charged with getting Republicans elected to office. For Mrs. Hamrick to stand up and encourage her followers to cast one of their votes for the Democratic opposition to our Republican candidates is really what led to that decision. That was a decision that was made unanimous by the executive committee.

“It’s really just to eliminate her name from the Conservative Voter Guide,” he said. “It’s not to say that she’s no longer on the ballot. It doesn’t make her not a candidate.”

When I asked Harris why party affiliation was important in a nonpartisan race, he said, “If you look at our plan of organization, which mirrors that of the state Republican Party, you’ll see that our goal is getting Republicans elected to office, and that’s what we do. ... What she did was to say ‘Don’t vote for one of my fellow Republicans; vote for this Democrat that I’m standing in the picture with.”

Harris, who retired last year as Smithfield’s fire chief, said that once the offending picture – oops, caption – was posted to Facebook, “our phone lit up” with calls from irate Republicans. “A lot of people were very upset by it,” he said, “because you’ve got four other candidates who are vying” for a spot on the board.

I think the whole thing is ridiculous. ... It makes no difference if the person with the solution is a Republican or a Democrat.

Tony Braswell, chairman of the Johnston County commissioners

One Republican who didn’t blow up his phone was Tony Braswell, chairman of the county commissioners and a fellow Republican.

“Heck no,” Braswell responded when I asked if he thought Hamrick’s name should be removed. “I think the whole thing is ridiculous. I keep pointing out that this is a bipartisan race, and our primary concern should be getting quality people on the board regardless of their party.

“More than ever, at a time such as now” when the country is so fractured politically, he said, “when we need to resolve problems, it makes no difference if the person with the solution is a Republican or a Democrat.”

Can I get an “amen”?

Hamrick, who has two daughters in school, said she didn’t even know Roberts before posing with her, but she knows her now. “She’s just an amazing woman,” she said. “She’s genuine and she really, truly believes in what she’s doing and in the children.”

Hamrick said she doesn’t think not being listed in the guide will hurt her candidacy. It may, given what she told me, help it.

“I’ve gotten so much support from people” since word of the incident got out, she said. “So many people have said how disappointed they are in the GOP, whether they’re registered Democrat or Republican. I’ve had people come up and say ‘I support you’ and ‘Can I hug you?’ I’ve always said I don’t think politics should be in the school system. It’s about the children and the staff and the facilities. That’s more important than trying to make it about politics.”

Is someone with such radical ideas really fit for office?

These are truly what the old folks called the end times, because it was written long ago: “Yea, I say unto thee. In the last days, ye will know the end is nigh when the lion will lie down with the lamb, men will wear Crocs on their feet and think they look good, and the Republican will pose for pictures with the Democrat.”

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