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Haywood GOP faction loses bid to oust chair

An ongoing tug-of-war for control of the Haywood County Republican Party reached a finale last week.

A faction of conservative activists failed in their bid to wrest the chairman’s seat away from Pat Carr, who represents the mainstream party establishment. Carr now hopes the party can overcome the internal division that has plagued it for more than a year.

“I believe we absolutely must work together. There is no way to be successful without working together,” Carr said.

But those calling to remove Carr aren’t ready to tow the unity line.

“As long as it is the ‘Pat Carr GOP’ and not the ‘Haywood County GOP’ there will be a problem,” said Eddie Cabe, a precinct chair in the party.

A vote to remove Carr was held at the party’s executive committee meeting June 3. The vote was 13 to 11 in favor of Carr remaining chair.

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Jonnie Cure, a precinct chair in Waynesville who disapproves of Carr’s leadership, said the vote is misleading.

“There are people who voted for her to remain because they just don’t want a disturbance,” Cure said.

Those who back Carr also say the vote is misleading, but in the other direction, claiming that the anti-Carr faction is not representative of average Republicans in Haywood County despite their undue influence within the executive committee.

Signs of conflict within the party manifested almost two years ago, following a concerted effort to expand the ranks of volunteers at the precinct level. Some of those coming on board were hard-charging conservative purists and found themselves at odds with the party establishment.

Cabe said he does not support the “agenda” of the party under Carr, which he considers “socialist.”

The faction claims they have brought new energy and vigor to the local party. But mainstream Republicans accuse the faction of being disruptive, negative and critical.

Carr is not the only one who has crossed swords with them, but one of the few who didn’t back down.

Cure said the turmoil over Carr has been harmful and Carr should have stepped aside for the good of the party.

“I would not have pit-bulled my position and stayed in there in spite of everybody,” Cure said.

Carr said she believes in the mission of the local party and it was worth standing up for.

“Hopefully we can come up with some common goals that will help us defeat Democrats and get our good conservative candidates elected,” Carr said. “I would certainly hope everyone would see the benefit of working together to further the position of our Republican candidates.”

But some of the disaffected party members — on both sides of the divide — aren’t ready for reconciliation. They will support Republican candidates, but not through the auspice of the party.

“My attention and money and campaigning will be for candidates,” Cure said.

Likewise, those who feel the party has been overrun with a radical conservative faction have said the same — vowing to support candidates but not the local party.

Lisa Womack, who was elected vice chair of the local GOP last month after the previous two vice chairs resigned, wants to bring everyone back to the table and is hopeful.

“After the meeting broke up there did seem to be a coming together. A lot of people from both sides were talking with each other,” Womack said of last week’s turn of events. 

Womack said some were just glad to put the issue to rest, but admitted some still had frustrations.

Some may never forgive Carr for her role in a failed attempt to undo the influence of the activist faction within the party by stripping them from the executive committee, a proposal made at the local party convention in March. The faction, angered by the attempt to oust them, retaliated by calling for Carr’s ousting.

The faction secured a voice in the party last year by orchestrating a major expansion of the executive committee — it went from seven to 30 members by adding precinct chairs as voting members.

While the issue is dead for now, either side could try to advance their position within the party at next year’s local convention when the party chair and precinct chairs are officially up for election.

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