Local News

State GOP Takes Steps To Avoid Losing Ground In Future Elections

Posted July 21, 2004 9:38 a.m. EDT

— The top three Republican candidates for governor nearly split the vote in this week's primary.

At the same time, a Republican faction tied to co-speaker Richard Morgan came under attack. Half of Morgan's closest Republican supporters lost their races, and Morgan nearly lost his.

The bitter feud in the state House has put Republicans at opposite ends. Next month's runoff in the Republican governor's race is expected to be bruising for the party as well.

That is why the state GOP is taking steps now so that it does not lose ground in the future.

A handshake Wednesday between Republican rivals was designed to heal the fractured GOP.

"We are a united party, and we will carry this message on into the fall," said N.C. GOP Chairman Ferrell Blount.

Do not tell that to David Miner, one of at least five House Republicans who lost their seats after supporting co-speaker Morgan.

"The primary was part of the playing out of the split within the Republican party," said Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Southern Politics.

The split began when Morgan formed a coalition with Democrat Jim Black in the House. Hard-core conservatives blamed Morgan for selling them out on taxes and redistricting. They said this week's primary was a referendum on him.

"He is the speaker of the House, and he was almost sent home (Tuesday)," grassroots activist Chris Farr said. "That has to be a powerful message to him that we are not happy with what went on down there (at the House)."

Said Miner: "I have the highest respect for Speaker Morgan and Jim Black. If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know today, I would still have supported the coalition."

Nevertheless, Miner said the anti-Morgan faction may hurt Republicans come November. Political observers agree.

"To the extent that any party is divided, it gives the opposition party a leg up," Guillory said.

While most House districts are safe for their parties, observers say some marginal seats could go either way.

That is why any show of unity -- like Wednesday's handshake between Virginia Johnson and Graham Boyd -- are so important to the party leadership.

Party leaders said they expect to see all of the Republican candidates rally behind the eventual nominee in the Governor's race, as well.