If you’re a registered Republican, your mailbox is probably getting pretty full. With just over a week before the North Carolina Republican Party convention, the three candidates to lead the state party for the next two years as NCGOP chairman have been campaigning hard.
None of the three candidates have statewide name recognition, but they’ll be critical to the future of the Republican Party. They’ll take over the chairmanship just months after former Chairman Robin Hayes was indicted on charges of bribery and corruption.
The 2020 elections will have a huge impact on the future of North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper is up for re-election, and the winning party in the General Assembly will have the upper hand to draw new districts after the upcoming census. (Here are the 2020 frontrunners.)
Here’s a quick primer on the three candidates. We’ve listed them in alphabetical order and are not making an endorsement.
Lewis currently serves as the general counsel for the NCGOP, and has thus been deeply involved with the flood of litigation Republicans have faced over the past few years. This record has been a mixed bag: He defeated a lawsuit from Chris Anglin seeking GOP resources for his quixotic bid in the 9th Congressional District, but the party has lost numerous other legal battles over the past year. Speaking of the elections board, Lewis is also a former member. He was among the votes not to certify Mark Harris’s election in the 9th.
Lewis’s campaign for NCGOP chairman is based on beefing up the party’s legal resources, a critical need with a Democrat-controlled state judiciary and divided government. He also says he’d put an emphasis on the judicial races in 2020, which will include at least three Supreme Court seats.
Lewis is the most closely tied to current leadership of the state party. If you generally agree with the way the state party has gone over the past few years, Lewis is your guy. But with the recent turmoil, this is going to work against him.
Lewis lives in Mount Pleasant and works for a law firm in Concord.
Whatley’s campaign for NCGOP chairman has cited his longtime service to the state Republican Party. This career began with work for U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms in 1984, included a brief stint as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s chief of staff and continued through the Trump campaign in 2016, when Whatley helped organize rallies as a volunteer across the state.
His campaign slogan is “Reset in Raleigh,” and he’s putting an emphasis on building better campaign infrastructure and recruiting volunteers.
Whatley is tied to U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. If he’s your guy, you’ll vote Whatley.
Whatley is an energy consultant and lobbyist who lives in Gaston County.
Womack’s career has taken him from the U.S. Army to the Pentagon to state government to the top of a private IT firm. More recently, Womack served as a Lee County commissioner from 2010 to 2014 — making Womack the only previously elected official in the race. Womack is also currently the chairman of the Lee County Republican Party.
His campaign has criticized the state party’s recent history as “dysfunctional” and speaks of “reviving” the party, creating an organization that “runs like a business and not like a club.”
Womack previously ran against Hayes in 2017 and has been a vocal critic of his leadership on the campaign trail. If you’re looking for an outsider and a complete shakeup of the party, Womack is your guy.
Cover image by Kyle Taylor via Flickr (Creative Commons)