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GOP leaders call for continued economic reform, electoral gains


State Rep. Chris Whitmire speaks to the convention, as county GOP Chr. Glen Englram looks on.

By Pete Zamplas-Henderson County Republicans revved up the tax-spending reform wagon Saturday, at their annual convention.

“We will take back this country,” keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-11th Dist.) told nearly 125 registered Republican conventioneers in Opportunity House. He compared Pres. Barack Obama to a “malaise”-ridden Democrat president a generation ago. “Jimmy Carter said our best days are behind us,” but then Ronald Reagan uplifted the nation, Meadows said. “Keep the faith … It’s not a lost cause” of endless national debt and foreign policy retreats. He urged capping spending growth at the inflation rate. “We have hundreds of billions of dollars that they don’t know where it goes,” Meadows added. “We have to rein that in.”

He is on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Republicans control the U.S. House, but needs the Senate which has even more clout, Meadows said. “Imagine if we have the Senate this year and — in 2016 — we get the White House. We have to send (U.S. Sen.) Kay Hagan home, and send (Majority Leader) Harry Reid to a (voting bloc) minority. He could care less about the people of western North Carolina.”

Two Democrats are vying for the congressional nomination, in the May 6 primary. They are Dr. Tom Hill of Zirconia, who is retired from aerospace, and businessman Keith Gary Ruehl of Barnardsville.

State Rep. Chris Whitmire (Dist. 113) said the Hagan challenge is “a race we absolutely must win.” He said other elections should be won “convincingly, to demoralize those (Democrats) who throw money at problems.” County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Messer said “we’ve been lied to many times. We’ve got to get the vote out, and replace that lady (Sen. Hagan) with someone who’ll represent all people.”

State House Speaker Thom Tillis is among GOP candidates in the senate primary. He claimed Hagan “voted 96 percent of the time with Harry Reid, and Barack Obama.” He said seven senate races are deemed “in play,” with the Tar Heel contest drawing much outside money. He said it very well could turn out that “North Carolina will be the deciding race.”

Tillis said that already, $2 million in Democrat-affiliated television ads attack him. “They know I am the one to beat Kay Hagan. They know if I’m the nominee, in November they’re likely looking at the 51st (Republican) senator in the U.S. Senate” to give the GOP a working majority. Tillis vowed “we’ll win this election, and we’ll turn this country around.”

Speaker Tillis said “the Democrats were destroying this state with historic levels of spending.” But he said the GOP reversed much since taking both chambers in 2010 and more last year, with Republican Pat McCrory as governor. Tillis wants to help enact policies nationally that he implemented in this state, to “cut taxes, cut regulations, and protect and heal our economy and our culture.”

Rep. Whitmire of Rosman said that in Raleigh, “we moved some mountains.” He cited bills passed for tighter voter identification requirements, private property rights, closing sex offender loopholes, keeping military bases open, easing regulations, and killing the state “death tax.” The state went from 44th to 17th in lowest corporate tax rate, to draw more jobs. Whitmire’s enacted bill ensures “foreign laws can’t compromise a person’s constitutional rights.”

Six-term State Sen. Tom Apodaca (Dist. 48) of Hendersonville briefly spoke. He guides flow of bills, as Senate Rules Committee chairman. He is opposed in the fall by Democrat Rick Wood, school board member and retired West Henderson basketball coach. Wood has cited teacher pay as a prime issue. In recent weeks, state GOP legislative leaders have proposed raising pay for newly-hired teachers to closer to the national average.

State Rep. Chuck McGrady (Dist. 117) of Flat Rock told The Tribune the aim is to attract top scholars into education, and to jobs here rather than in states that were paying more. He said Democrats now call for greater salary for all teachers. McGrady terms this as “the next step,” as budgeting reasonably allows. Whitmire vowed higher teacher pay will be done “without raising (state) taxes.” Medicaid reform is among priorities. The local duo and Sen. Apodaca are for tighter control of electricity’s coal ash emissions, after such toxic sludge leaked from a storage pond pipe into the Dan River.

Democrat Norm Bossert challenges Whitmire Nov. 4, since each is unopposed. Ronnie Edwards of Mills River takes on McGrady in the primary. The winner faces Libertarian Shelby Mood Nov. 4.

This month, the county GOP sponsors forums for Republican primary candidates at 7 p.m. on the next three Thursday nights, in Opportunity House. April 3 will be for Sheriff Charles S. McDonald and challengers (state trooper) Michael Brown and Fletcher Police Chief Erik Summey. On April 10, the first hour is for Register of Deeds, to succeed retiring Nedra Moles. No Democrats are running. Republicans are Shannon Baldwin, Evona Johnson Kilpatrick and Lee King. Their segment is followed by Edwards and Rep. McGrady.

The commissioners’ forum is April 17. They are (with incumbents first), in District 1: J. Michael Edney, Hogan Corn and Andrew Riddle; D-3: Larry R. Young, William G. Lapsley; D-4: Tommy Thompson, Tim Griffin. Written questions can be submitted at these forums.

At the convention Saturday, Chairman Messer noted commissioners have kept the tax rate stable; enhanced recreational, educational and medical facilities; and secured greater Pardee Hospital cost-efficiency under UNC management and bulk purchasing.

County Party Chairman Glen Englram emphasized increased GOP voter registration and turnout. He said “less than one in five voted” in the GOP primary in 2010, the prior presidential mid-term year. Englram on Feb. 15 replaced Andrew Riddle, who stepped down after nearly a year to run for commissioner. Riddle had succeeded Mike Scruggs, as chairman. Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Brown replaces Englram as vice-chairman. Englram, a suburban Chicago native, has been a maverick Tea Party leader speaking out on local issues.

Englram briskly paraphrased House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in saying too often “we get the ‘crap sandwich’” in costly, flawed federal policy. Englram called Democrats the “party of Chappaquiddick, Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards and — lest we forget — ‘you can keep your doctor’ (an “Obamacare” falsity). That opposition must be defeated.”

District Attorney Greg Newman ran the convention, and unleashed jokes. He said Democrat spendthrift programs are like fast food freebies. “Order any meal you want, and the guy behind you has to pay.” He said 4.2 million Americans have “lost health care” policies, due to Obamacare. He quipped about Obama possibly stepping up economic sanctions against Russia for its expansionism, to “cripple the economy” there. “If anyone know how to cripple an economy, Barack Obama does.”

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