Hundreds of area Republican Party members joined together with GOP candidates and their advocates at the Third Congressional District Convention Saturday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
The keynote speaker of the convention was Rosemary Fernandez, chair of the N.C. Republican National Hispanic Assembly. She spoke about how to engage the Hispanic voting population, her family experience and why self-reliance is in the best interest of families.
Following the keynote speaker, the candidates for U.S. Senate and their supporters were welcomed to address the crowd for five minutes each.
A male representative, calling himself “Major Dave,” spoke first for candidate Mark Harris. Reading a letter written by Harris, he said: “I’m dedicated to a life full of liberty, limited government and family. These principals and the Constitution itself are under attack like never before. More than anything, North Carolina Republicans must nominate a man unencumbered by questions of character. I don’t care how much experience you have or how well you know the Constitution, if you don’t have character, it just doesn’t matter. Character is the absolute core of what North Carolina and truly all of America needs most.
“As a native of our great state, I am in this race to give North Carolinians a new voice in Washington, a voice that will be conservative and solutions-oriented, a voice that says free market solutions are better than government programs, a voice that says no to Common Core and yes to more local control of our public schools, a voice for no amnesty on discussions of illegal immigration, a voice not willing to substitute political gamesmanship for doing what is right.”
Craven County Commissioner Scott C. Dacey then spoke on behalf of N.C. Rep. Thom Tillis, who is currently speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives.
“Does Thom enter this race with the background and skill set that will make him an effective United States senator?” Dacey rhetorically asked the crowd. “Let me tell you about Thom, … he is a former managing consultant with IBM. In 2006, he was elected to the state House. In 2008, he was again elected to the state House and then by his peers he was asked to serve as minority whip and chairman of the election campaign.
“In 2010, he engineered the election of a majority of Republicans to serve in the House of Representatives, electing Thom as speaker in 2011, the second GOP speaker in the history of North Carolina. In 2013, he unanimously re-elected to serve his second term as speaker.”
Karen Kozel, the director of the Eastern N.C. Tea Party, spoke for candidate Greg Brannon.
“Greg is probably the most constitutionally sound candidate I have ever met, and I have been involved in politics my entire life,” she said. “He knows the Constitution; he knows how it applies to our law. It means that there is a rulebook for our country. We need to follow that rulebook, and he wants to bring that back… He understands the parameters of the federal government, what are they allowed to do, what is constitutionally sound. It’s not unlimited.”
Following the Senate hopefuls, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives were given a few minutes to speak.
Taylor Griffin, who worked under former President George W. Bush and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was next to address the local Republicans.
“As your congressman, I would fight for our commercial fisherman and their way of life. I would fight to prevent Hatteras Island from falling into the sea,” he said. “I will fight to make sure our harbors are dredged and I will fight for our veterans and active duty military.
“So ladies and gentleman, if the most important thing is to elect a good man, Walter Jones is a good man, but you can be a good man and vote more with Barack Obama than any other Republican and you can be a good man and not show up. If you want a good man as your representative, you have three choices in this race, but if you want someone who will represent your values, I ask you for your support, your vote and your prayers.”
A male representative for incumbent Rep. Walter Jones then spoke.
“He is the only House member to vote against every debt ceiling increase in the past 10 years,” the Jones supporter said. “These budget bills have raised our debt from $8 trillion to over $17 trillion — he’s voted against it. … He has opposed Obamacare from the get-go and has voted against it 40 times.
“Vote for a person that has character and a man that always tell the truth. Support Walter Jones. He supports our values and he is a true conservative.”
After lunch, a straw poll was taken of the 162 people in attendance. For U.S. Senate, Brannon received 59 percent of the vote, Tillis received 24 percent, Harris received 12 percent and candidate Ted Alexander received 2 percent. Both candidates Heather Grant and candidate Jim Snyder received less than 1 percent of the vote. Also in the race are Edward Kyrn and Alex Bradshaw.
For the U.S. House of Representatives, Jones received 54 percent of the vote, while Griffin pulled 40 percent. Al (Big Al) Novinec got 7 percent.
The Republican primary election is May 6.
The 3rd Congressional District covers all or a portion of 22 counties across Eastern North Carolina. The counties are Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Greene, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington.
Cathryn Lindsay is a reporter for the Sun Journal.