Rep. Robert Brawley will no longer participate in House GOP caucus meetings
Posted May 21, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — This much is clear: Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, will no longer participate as a full-fledged member of the House Republican caucus.
But true to his contentious relationship with GOP leaders, particularly House Speaker Thom Tillis, Brawley's versions of a Tuesday afternoon caucus meeting and that of Majority Leader Edgar Starnes differ.
"They called it a vote of no confidence," Brawley said Wednesday, recounting a meeting of the House Republican caucus that happened late Tuesday. "Effectively, it removed me from the caucus."
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, the joint caucus leader, said, "That is not my understanding of what happened," but she referred specific questions to Starnes.
Starnes, R-Caldwell, said that Brawley "voluntarily" removed himself from participation in future caucus meetings.
A caucus is a group of legislators who share similar interests and issues. County delegations, such as the lawmakers from Wake County, often form caucuses, as do groups interested in particular kinds of businesses, such as farming.
However, the caucuses that really matter are the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and Senate. Those meetings are where lawmakers plot strategy and debate issues considered too sensitive for public exposure.
Caucus meetings are also exempted from the state's open meetings laws, meaning that a majority of the House or Senate members can gather behind closed doors, debate and effectively decide how a vote will go before public debate takes place.
According to Starnes, Brawley had raised hackles by disclosing information from those closed-door meetings to third parties and the public at large.
"The members of the caucus don't have confidence in Rep. Brawley's ability to keep information confidential," Starnes said.
By Starnes' account, Brawley "volunteered" not to return to future caucus meetings if he lost a vote of no confidence. Both men said Brawley subsequently lost that vote. One person familiar with the meeting said that Brawley garnered only 11 votes from the 77-member caucus. Starnes would say only that that Brawley lost by a 5-to-1 margin.
After hearing Starnes' account, Brawley said the majority leader didn't tell the whole story.
"I was offered to either accept the no confidence vote and agree not to come to anymore caucus meetings or face a "kick me out vote," Brawley e-mailed. "Having been through the division caused by expelling a member in the past, the caucus does not handle the expulsion vote well, I opted to accept the no vote and agreed to leave the caucus."
Asked why he thought the vote had gone against him and that he is no longer a functioning member of the caucus, Brawley said, "you'll have to ask them." He later added, "They still have not told me what I am guilty of, except speaking free speech."
He did acknowledge that he has been a vocal critic of Tillis and his U.S. Senate bid. During the spring primary, Brawley penned a letter blasting Tillis. That followed up on a public dispute during the 2013 session in which Brawley resigned as chairman of the Finance Committee over differences involving a bail bondsman bill and cable regulation.
"The only thing that bothers me is, there are so many decisions made in caucus," Brawley said, adding that he would have to ask more questions during debate on the House floor.
Brawley lost his primary two weeks ago and will not return to the General Assembly as a member in 2015.
"I was a Republican before most of them were born and worked and sacrificed much to prepare for them to be here today, but the future is in their hands," Brawley said. "I hope following the leader does not create problems for the caucus. It is still true, if you are not the lead dog, the view is always the same."