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.

John Lewis

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.

Michael Whatley

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.

Jim Womack

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)


  1. You said you were not making an endorsement but in fact you have — it is apparent you are a Jim Womack support. You said that Lewis as counsel was deeply involved in the flood of litigation. However John has only been counsel since Feb. You said Whatley was the candidate of Thom Tillis. Tillis people are supporting Whatley but so are Mark Meadows’ people. There are also a lot of Trump people that support Whatley. You failed to mention that the supporters of Harnett are all in the camp of Womack.

    I enjoy reading your blog and you are usually fair.

    • Just because meadows took a picture with whatley, doesn’t mean anything. He is very close with Jim and there is a photo with and Jim as well. Also, if whatley is very close to tillis, not necessarily a good thing. And if people get to hung up on trump, I agree he is key to have, but this isn’t chairman for trump, this is chairman for North Carolina Republican Party and that means helping candidates all down the ballot and not just worrying about Governor, Senate, and President.

  2. Acknowledging the current state of affairs in the North Carolina Republican Party and distilling down what each of the candidates perceive as a viable plan to bring unity and energy back to the NCGOP, I believe Mr. Womack’s understanding and path to resolution brings the best intended outcome for us all. All three gentlemen have served North Carolina contributing their God given talents where needed in the times they were needed. At any given moment any of these gentlemen could and I believe would serve the members of our NCGOP very well. At this time and this moment, I believe Jim Womack represents our best option to realize our greatest potential as an effective party in our precious North Carolina. I stand ready to support our next GOP Chair in placing a Repulican in the Governor’s seat, our supreme court, the council of state and reclaiming a super majority in our General Assembly. God Bless The Great State of North Carolina.

  3. clarifying an earlier comment John Lewis has served as Assistant or Vice Legal Counsel to the NCGOP for several years less his time on the State Board of Elections during the District 9 Election fiasco. I also believe Womack is the only one who has pledged a full-time, on-site presence as needed if elected to this unpaid position.

  4. Jim Womack For NC GOP Chair is only an “outsider” if you mean getting Republicans elected in North Carolina. Womack delivered wins in November 2018 when others lost across NC. Records shows only Jim Womack helped Republicans on the ballot. Jim Womack elects Republicans. You will know them by their fruits. Some Delegates will choose more of the same old tricks. Womack will deliver on election day.

  5. I met Jim Wolmack years ago on my quest to end Common Core. He was open, accessible and responsive to my concerns and yes, Conservative in a positive way. He has my vote as a fresh breath of air in the contaminated party politics thanks to Robin Hays and his morally bankrupt means of dealing with all members of this party.

  6. These wacky Womack people kill me. Just pretending a never Trumper in charge of NCGOP will wave a magic wand and win every race on the ballot. The paper bag wearing dufus will dry up the rest of the money going to the party and we’ll have to rely on the Caucuses and the RNC in the most expensive election cycle ever. No thanks wacky Womack!!

  7. Womack has neither the temperament or people skills necessary to unify the NCGOP. Remember his snide comments as he left the room after losing the election to Hayes? Many of us still do. West Point may have taught him how to draft a plan and issue orders, but that is not how the NCGOP works.


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