Davidson GOP endures growing pains leading into primary
The split vote last week for the new leader of the Davidson County Republican Party symbolizes the growing differences among candidates and rank-and-file activists as the GOP has ascended to power locally.
Former county commissioner Larry Allen was named the new chairman Thursday night during a meeting of the Davidson County GOP Executive Committee. However, the vote among party leaders was seven to five in the contest between Allen and Terry Price, a former Republican candidate for sheriff and past vice chairman of the county party. One party leader abstained in the vote for chairman.
Other potential divisions within the party are cropping up in Republican primary races that will be decided May 6.
Current county commissioner Sam Watford is challenging appointed state Rep. Roger Younts, R-Davidson, in the 80th State House District. Younts was appointed last summer to succeed longtime legislator Jerry Dockham, who resigned to join the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Younts’ appointment at a county GOP Executive Committee meeting last summer generated intense controversy. Longtime party activist Dwight Story of Thomasville was barred during the meeting from voting by phone while on a church trip to Virginia, but Younts voted for himself to become a legislator. Watford has cited the way that Younts was appointed as one reason he’s challenging for the state House seat.
At Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting, Allen voted for himself to become the new county party chairman. But he said that he didn’t believe that was improper.
“In the past, when I was selected for county commissioner, I did recuse myself because that is a public-held office. And that’s a total different thing when compared to a party office,” Allen said.
In another heated contest, Republican Sheriff David Grice faces a pair of GOP challengers in Hal Triplett and Tracy Pierce. The race already has created controversy when Triplett filed a complaint earlier this year with state Republican Party about Lance Barrett, the former county party chairman, endorsing Grice in the sheriff’s race. Triplett said that Barrett’s endorsement violated a Republican Party rule that county chairmen shouldn’t endorse candidates in a primary.
Barrett has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was departing as chairman to run this year for a seat on the county Board of Commissioners. In replacing Barrett, Allen was named county chairman through the spring of 2015 as Barrett left the post to run for elected office.
Allen told The High Point that he isn’t worried that a split is developing within the county Republican Party, which is coming to dominate local elections. No Democrat has been elected to a partisan office in Davidson County in the past four years, making the Republican primary even more critical in county politics.
“I think we will all come together in the end,” Allen said, referring to Republican support for primary winners in the Nov. 4 general election and after they take office.
Price said the jockeying by candidates and party members within the Davidson County Republican Party reflects more people becoming involved in GOP politics and wanting their voices heard.
“Everyone has their candidates that they support, and that is their American right. That’s the process,” Price said. “The Republican Party in Davidson County is extremely strong and has done very well.”
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