Hayes in line to lead state GOP
By Gary D. Robertson
RALEIGH ó Then-state Rep. Robin Hayes wore the anti-establishment label while upsetting Richard Vinroot in the 1996 Republican gubernatorial primary. Now after serving in Congress for a decade, Hayes is the one being called the insider in the race to become the next state Republican Party chairman.
Hayes, current party Vice Chairman Tim Johnson and former Guilford County Chairman Marcus Kindley are the announced candidates for Saturdayís state GOP election to serve out the remaining five months of the two-year term of Tom Fetzer. The longtime Republican political operative announced following the November elections he was leaving his post early.
His potential successors are talking up grass-roots credentials after a year that saw tea party activists largely side with Republican candidates, contributing to the GOP wresting control of the General Assembly from Democrats for the first time in 112 years. The winner, to be chosen by hundreds of members of the GOP executive committee meeting in Raleigh, should have a leg up in June when the larger state GOP Convention convenes to elect a chairman for another two years.
Republicans point to 2012 as a critical year in which they aim to extend their new majority in the General Assembly, unseat Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and return the stateís electoral voters to the GOP after Barack Obama ended a 32-year Democratic drought in 2008.
Frank Williams, a regional GOP leader in Brunswick County who declined to identify whom he supports, said he want to elect the person ěwho I can think can be the most effective spokesperson, fundraiser and public leader for our party.î
Hayes, who lost the 1996 general election to Gov. Jim Hunt, represented the 8th Congressional District for ten years until Larry Kissell beat him in 2008. Heís won endorsements from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and presumptive General Assembly leaders Rep. Thom Tillis and Sen. Phil Berger. They are all on the executive committee, which has more than 600 members, including current state and county party leaders, elected officials and former state chairmen.
ěI feel like the partyís helped me over the past 20 years,î said Hayes, 65, a descendant of the Cannon textile family, hosiery mill owner and social conservative. He said heís been involved in local party building throughout his political career and serving as chairman would be a great way to give back. ěThere will be wide open doors in my chairmanship for those who want to work and those who want to advance the principles of the Republican Party.î
Johnson, a former Buncombe County GOP chairman, was elected the first black vice chairman in state GOP history at the June 2009 state party convention. Heís chairman of the national Frederick Douglass Foundation, which promotes Republican and conservative principles in the black community. New state Rep. Glen Bradley credits Johnson for bringing him and activists with more libertarian leanings to the table and helping them win. Bradley, R-Franklin, said Hayes ěis part of the same circle of Republicans who have run the Republican Party for the past 40 years, and I am very interested in bringing in fresh blood.î
David Robinson, GOP chairman for the 13th Congressional District, said he backs Hayes because a steady hand is needed now that Republicans are in a stronger position: ěThere is a certain stability that he will bring and certain businesslike approach to the chairmanship that will be critical.î