Under the Dome

Hasan Harnett says he’s still the NC Republican Party’s chairman

Hasan Harnett
Hasan Harnett

Recently ousted N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett attended Saturday’s GOP state convention and said he’s not stepping down willingly.

After months of infighting among party leaders, the Republican Party Executive Committee voted April 30 to remove Harnett and replace him with former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord.

Hayes led Saturday’s convention from the stage, while Harnett sat with the delegation from Cabarrus County, where he lives. But in one of the first interviews he’s given since being ousted, Harnett said the removal vote wasn’t legitimate because it didn’t follow party rules.

“I’m still the chairman, duly elected,” he told reporters outside the convention hall. “Regardless of all the brouhaha and the shenanigans that are taking place, my job is to make sure that there is openness, fairness and transparency within the party.”

During the convention, Harnett approached the microphone and asked for information about his removal. He says he hasn’t been provided details about the charges against him, or a list of the 200 names on the impeachment petition. He missed the meeting where he was removed because he was out of the country on business.

“I did not have notice or notification regarding the things that took place last week,” he said, as some of the Republicans in the room applauded.

Harnett was told he’d be given the information and asked to step outside. He then had a heated exchange with NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse.

“I have nothing,” Harnett said. “Their response was we’ll provide that to you in a week’s time.”

Harnett said some of his supporters attended the convention, while others were discouraged by his removal and stayed home.

Hayes’ speech Saturday didn’t mention Harnett, but he said the party is improving. “We are regaining our mojo, our credibility, but more importantly, as a company, people are becoming more willing to invest with us,” he said, holding up a donation check. Harnett had been criticized for failing to raise money – something he disputes. “We need to bring all our forces to bear so we can get rid of Hillary.”

Harnett was the state party’s first black chairman. He was elected last year with Tea Party support, beating a candidate who had endorsements from nearly every GOP statewide elected official.

The state party’s leadership split mirrors divisions in the national Republican Party, where the party’s establishment wing sought to stop Donald Trump’s candidacy.

And while Harnett was sidelined, a similar split was evident Saturday as the party elected its two representatives to the Republican National Committee.

Greg Gebhardt, a top aide to House Rules Chairman David Lewis, sought to succeed Lewis in the role. He faced opposition from Rep. Mark Brody of Monroe, who’s aligned with the Tea Party wing of the party.

For the female representative, incumbent Ada Fisher faced Miriam Chu, a small business owner and Tea Party member from Moore County.

Brody won by a healthy margin, but Fisher beat Chu by just three votes with more than 600 Republicans voting.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter