GOP rallies supporters at convention

By Olivia Neeley, The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 07--Republicans say while they accomplished a lot in 2013, they hope to get even more done in 2014. And to accomplish those goals, they need to work hard on getting their candidates elected.

"2013 was really a historic year for Republicans," Rep. Susan Martin told the crowd at the annual Wilson County Republican Party 2014 convention Thursday. "We did make tremendous strides."

The GOP held its convention at the Eagles Center at Wilson Community College. Guest speakers included Sen. Harry Brown, Republican majority leader of the N.C. Senate, and Republican state House speaker Thom Tillis who hopes to best Democrat U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in November.


Tillis told the Wilson crowd that state Republican leaders were able to produce the greatest reforms in North Carolina in years. Tillis said he quit his job at IBM in 2009 because he was fed up with how the Democrats were leading. He said Republicans made a promise to voters they would cut taxes, cut regulations, promote the traditional family, protect the lives of the unborn, promote laws that would protect Second Amendment rights and also promote farmers. He said he was glad to be a part of that effort.

But a year ago, Tillis said, he was going to go back to the private sector and leave politics. Instead, he opted to get in the Senate race because of where the country is heading. "President Obama, Kay Hagan and the Democratic leadership in Washington are destroying this nation," Tillis said.

Tillis said the time now reminds him of when he was 20 and Jimmy Carter was president.

"Our prestige in the world was at an all-time low," he said. "When we would let Russia and terrorist nations run all over us. When our economy was bad, the taxes were too high, the regulations were too many, we had very little hope. I was 20 years old working in a warehouse and living in a trailer park. And it never occurred to me that the government was going to solve my problems."

He said what solved his problem was hard work and education, which led him to the American dream. But Tillis said that opportunity doesn't exist today.

"I don't think if President Obama or the Democrats continue to control the Senate that opportunity will exist for our children or for the next generation," he said.

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Tillis said if he's elected he will tell U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, "thanks, but no thanks, we've got better ideas." He would tell President Obama, "thanks but no thanks, we are going to repeal Obamacare."

He said he would also hold Republican leaders in Washington to the same standards he did his colleagues in North Carolina.

"I will not only talk about the good things we are going to do, but do them," Tillis said.


Brown, the keynote speaker for Thursday's convention, said the Republican leadership "went hard and fast the whole session."

He said while choosing not to expand Medicaid was a tough decision, he believes the Republican-led legislature made the right decision.

"Medicaid is the absolute driver of our budget," Brown said, adding that it takes money from education and other areas of government.

The unemployment insurance reform bill put North Carolina in line with the rest of the surrounding states. He said North Carolina paid more in unemployment benefits than surrounding states and cutting the time people could collect those unemployment benefits put them on a better path for the future.

Brown noted the unemployment rate went from 10 percent to less than 7 percent.

"I honestly believe a lot of people who were satisfied collecting unemployment decided they may have to go back to work," he said.

Brown also said they plan to continue to look at how they can change rules and regulations to make it easier on businesses. He said while they were able to reform taxes last year, they are not through. He said Republican leaders would work on more tax reform during next year's long session. Brown said they are working on trying to find money to help beginning teachers start out at a better salary. He said they are also trying to find money for other teachers as well.

"Medicaid dictates that in a lot of ways," he said.

Sen. Buck Newton introduced Brown. Newton represents District 11, which includes Wilson, Nash and a portion of Johnston county. He is unopposed.


Local GOP candidates, including current commissioners Tad Piner, Roger Lucas and Chris Hill, spoke to the crowd. All three said while they don't have a majority on the board now, they hope to soon.

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"Control of that board would be essential," said Lucas, who represents District 4. He is unopposed.

They also said communication between all board members, both Republicans and Democrats, has enabled them to get a lot accomplished. Piner will face Bill Blackman, also a Republican, in May for the District 7 seat. Blackman is a former city councilman.

Hill, who represents District 6, will face Democrat Tony Gaetano in November. Republican candidate Glenn Thomas Blackwell will face incumbent Rob Boyette for the District 5 seat.

Joey Gardner, a Republican running for sheriff, said he's had a great response from the community about running in November. He said he has a lot of law enforcement experience. He also has concerns about the turnover rate at the Wilson County Sheriff's Office.

"We have to address our turnover rate at the sheriff's office," he said. "We are losing a lot of men and women."

Gardner said there is a lot of work to do before the election, but he's ready.

"We've got to get the word out," he said.

Martin, who represents District 8, will face Barbara "Bobi" Gregory, a Democrat in November.

Several other state and federal candidates also attended the convention.

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(c)2014 The Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, N.C.)

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