The Robeson County Republican Party held its annual convention last week.
Honestly, party conventions are not the most exciting events unless you’re a hard-line political participant. That’s pretty much the reason extreme views on both sides can get injected into party platforms in the first place. Because mostly only the hard-core members are delegates to these conventions. But you can tell which direction a party is moving as a result.
Years ago, when delegates at the Democratic national convention voted to remove the word “God” from their party platform and booed the convention chair when he didn’t acknowledge the correct vote from the floor to remove it, it wasn’t so much that mainstream Democrats agree. It is simply that delegates going to conventions are those at each extreme.
Local conventions are less extreme. Local Republicans understand a lot of conservative Democrats are friends in Robeson. Building those relationships has been part of the success of the local GOP.
But party politics is an important part of making our democracy work and local conventions are where that process begins. Typically, the Robeson Republican Party has about 75 or so participants each year. That’s a good size considering the phone booth famously offered to Republicans to use at the courthouse for conventions decades ago.
There were milestones achieved at this recent convention. After a brief business session, the local party was the first county party in the state to live stream its candidate forum on Facebook. We think the use of this technology is a great advancement to bring the political process to the broader electorate and to improve transparency. Years ago, it would take thousands of dollars and a truck full of equipment to broadcast an event live. Now it can be accomplished with a cell phone in seconds.
We had national coverage of the local convention as well. A reporter from the Washington Examiner checks in on Robeson often as one of the few counties in the nation that voted for President Obama twice then favored President Trump. Having just left a county in California enroute to another in Florida, he stopped to attend.
The last milestone was having a couple of contested Republican seats for the first time in county history. Republicans are not accustomed to having two Republicans vying for the nomination to contest a seat in the General Election, but we have two local GOP contests in May.
Republicans Jarrod Lowery and Tom Norton both spoke; they are vying for the nomination to face Democrat Charles Graham for his House seat in November. Republican David Edge then spoke in support of his work toward re-election to the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. His Republican opponent R.G. Hammonds wasn’t present at the convention but will face Edge in May to decide the nomination of who will face the Democrat challenger later in November.
The party also unveiled its new website http://Robeson.nc.gop It is integrated with the state party in order to provide more resources but has a lot of local control and content. It is a system rolled out statewide if parties wish to participate in the statewide communication system.
Legislator Brenden Jones also spoke and gave greetings for Sen. Danny Britt. Both leaders voluntarily spend time away from their family to serve this critical democratic function. Taking the lead and accepting constant criticism as part of the job for serving is the price of democracy and we appreciate all those who attend conventions of any political party to participate in the process as it isn’t easy.
As we enter the season of district and state conventions, the local GOP has a registration drive to push past the 10,000 number of registered county Republicans. It’s yet another sign of GOP growth and the party is watching for who will be the 10,000th person to register Republican in Robeson County. Anyone who has thought of switching, now is the time.
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party. The party’s webpage is http://Robeson.nc.gop.