“The party holds its membership accountable to rules when it sees fit but ignores candidates and elected officials that blatantly disregard the reason for the party, which is the platform,” said Jeremy Davis, one of five charged and four found responsible for various acts of party disloyalty.
The sanctions come after the executive committee of the Haywood County Republican Party adopted a resolution asking the NCGOP to “make a termination [sic] as to whether certain actions of the persons below named registered as Republicans, rise to the level of party disloyalty as that term is defined in the aforesaid North Carolina Republican Party Plan of Organization.”
Those named in the resolution were Davis, Eddie Cabe, Monroe Miller, Richard West and Paul Yeager, all members of a splinter group called the Haywood Republican Alliance.
Members insist the schism with the HCGOP isn’t ideological, but rather, one of integrity; several of the Haywood Five formerly held leadership posts in the HCGOP until they were electioneered out of office this spring after taking over the party last fall.
Not long after the HCGOP resolution was adopted, an identical resolution was adopted by the executive committee of the 11th district Republicans, again asking the state party to intervene.
The NCGOP executive committee scheduled the resolution for Nov. 11 in Cary, and notified the Five that they’d be tried and were entitled to answer the allegations in person.
According to evidence presented at the hearing, the charges against Cabe seemed to be the most damning.
A series of Facebook posts made by Cabe dating back before the last election calls Republican Haywood County Commissioner Kevin Ensley a “gun grabbing socialist” and a “problem” and also expresses his motivation to “replace the Commissioners who have caused so much problems in this county.”
An undated email from Cabe to parties unknown but assumed to be to someone in the HCGOP shows statements indicating he would vote for Ensley’s then-opponent Robin Greene Black, a Democrat.
Evidence presented against West consisted of an allegation by HCGOP Chair Ken Henson that West and others had been “striking through the names of certain Republican candidates” listed on the party’s official voter guide, as well as an affidavit by Carolyn Inman that says she’d received from West at HCGOP headquarters a voter guide with the names of Ensley and U.S. Senator Richard Burr crossed out.
Miller had already gotten the boot from the HCGOP executive committee in August; at a similar hearing in Bethel, Miller was asked to leave because he refused to turn off his audio recorder, and thus was tried in absentia, and removed from the HCGOP executive committee.
The NCGOP used Miller’s own Haywood Toeprints blog entry of Nov. 2, 2016, against him; in what he called a “conservative pick list” he listed candidates from Donald Trump on down to Haywood County Commissioners and suggests votes for Brandon Rogers, a Republican, and Robin Greene Black, a Democrat. Crossed out on the list were Democrat Steve Brown, and incumbent Republican Kevin Ensley.
Neither Cabe, West, nor Miller showed up in Cary to present a defense; all were found responsible for their behavior and given five year bans from party activity including but not limited to holding party office or attending party-related events.
When contacted via email Nov. 12, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said he couldn’t comment on proceedings in a closed executive session and therefore couldn’t confirm the length of the bans, or even the findings of the group itself, although more than 100 people were in attendance at the meeting and a number of social media posts appear to confirm the sanctions against Cabe, Miller, and West.
The party plan further states that the supposed sanctions are within the power of the committee to levy.
Both Yeager and Davis appeared and attempted to defend themselves, with varying degrees of success.
Davis was found responsible for a series of Facebook posts that appeared on his wall in late October and early November of 2016 that say Ensley is “worse than a Democrat” and that he had voted for Ensley’s opponent, the Democrat Black.
But Davis said he was in Asheville when the posts were made, spending time with his father, who passed away on Oct. 25. His tablet device, he said, was left at HCGOP headquarters Oct. 19, and he didn’t have access to it again until Nov. 8.
Davis brought to the hearing a report he made to the Waynesville Police department alleging his device had been compromised, as well as an affidavit by HCGOP Precinct Chair Fred Stokely, who said he’d wandered in to headquarters one day during Davis’ absence and saw the device in HCGOP volunteer Lynda Bennet’s hand.
Still, Davis was given a three year ban.
Yeager, however, was found not responsible for Facebook activity on his account; on Sept. 4, 2016, Yeager shared a post from the Gary Johnson for President page. On it, a white tee shirt reads “Why choose the left nut [Hillary Clinton] or the right nut [Donald Trump] when you could have the Johnson?”
Rather than try to explain it away, Yeager said he basically told the NCGOP executive committee that it is what it is.
“It’s a joke, I’m sorry if you don’t get it. Because of propriety, I won’t explain it to you here,” he said, drawing a few chuckles from those assembled.
After the hearing, Yeager told The Smoky Mountain News that the whole situation was an avoidable one; indeed, two last-minute attempts to avoid the hearing were attempted, but failed.
Yeager said and Davis confirmed that as they were awaiting their hearings, NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes attempted to strike a deal with the pair, asking the HRA to change its name, and asking them to try to tone down the rhetoric of Cabe and Miller, who can be prolific in their emails to government and party officials.
Then, during the hearing itself, NCGOP executive committee member and Lee County GOP Chairman Jim Womack offered a motion to suspend the hearing pending the outcome of further settlement discussions.
The motion was voted down; Yeager said he thought it wasn’t so much that the committee wanted to “hang” anyone as much as they just wanted the ugly incident – which has drawn significant media interest across the region for the past six months – to be over.
“This was a sad day for everyone involved,” Woodhouse said. “There are no clear winners here. But hopefully everyone involved can simply move on.”
Davis, for one, seems reluctant to do so and said it’s not about preserving or regaining his membership in the NCGOP, but about defending his reputation.
“This is far from over,” he said. “I was falsely accused by the very people that I can prove fabricated the evidence.”
And in perhaps the best barometer of the HRA’s reaction to the bans, Davis said the HRA would host a “disloyalty party” at its Waynesville headquarters Nov. 28.