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More than 320 Nash County Republicans and guests cheerfully enjoyed an eastern North Carolina meal of barbecue and fried shrimp before they heard political pep talks warning against “crazy” Democrats and elected officers and delegates at the 2019 precinct meetings and county convention.
The keynote speaker for the event, held at Nash Community College, was Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who got quickly to the point.
‘There is a lot of things at stake in this election,” he said of 2020. “This is going to be a tough campaign.”
Forest, an architect in his second term as lieutenant governor, gave a brief campaign-oriented speech that extolled the achievements of Republicans in state government with indirect criticism of incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper.
“The government is not the social fabric of America. It doesn’t care about people; it’s about numbers,” he said. “The government is not a solution for all our problems.”
Forest has formed an exploratory committee to run for governor and is a presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate.
He said the state should “stand up for law enforcement and the military” and added a dig against Cooper’s stand against hog farms.
“We need a governor that protects our farmers, especially when they’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.
Saying it was an “exciting time to be Republican” despite the national turmoil, Forest encouraged the crowd to go home and “reach out to conservative Democrats.”
He said the many conservative Democrats in the state “believe the same things we do” and just need to be shown why they should vote with Republicans.
“We’ve got to work hard to maintain the gains we’ve made,” he said.
Former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner of Rocky Mount was emcee for the evening, starting off to cheers when he said, ‘The Democratic Party has gone crazy.”
Despite digs at the Democratic presidential candidates as “all socialists,” political rhetoric was subdued. President Donald Trump was endorsed by Forest s a “great president,” but otherwise the chief executive was barely mentioned during the convention.
Several candidates, mostly local, were introduced to the audience and given a chance to speak briefly, and Gardner introduced all the elected politicians in the room. Sheriff Keith Stone received a standing ovation.
“We’ve got the best sheriff in the country,” Gardner said.
In convention business, Nash County Commissioner Wayne Outlaw was presented the Faye Eagles Volunteer of the Year Award for his work during the year on behalf of the Republican Party.
“I don’t feel worthy of this,” he said. “I do it (serve) for the cause of conservatism.”
In a voice vote with no opposition, the group re-elected attorney Mark Edwards as chairman of the county party and elected Bruce Harris as vice chair, Peggy Winstead as secretary and Judy Knox as treasurer.
Fourteen at-large members of the executive committee presented by the nominating committee were also elected without opposition:
Amanda Bell, Tony Bennett, W.B. Bullock, Stan Figlewski, Jane Gravely, Steve Lawrence, Wyatt McGhee, Sandy Roberson, Judson Rosser, Brenda Stallings, Steve Stevenson, John Whitehead, Steve Williams and Victor Woodcock.
The county’s elected Republican officials also serve on the executive committee.
Edwards said there were additional seats available on the executive committee and told any potential volunteers interested to call him.
The convention also elected a slate of delegates, mostly self-nominated, to upcoming district and state conventions.