GOP convention process questioned

By Andy Winemiller -

PILOT MOUNTAIN — Some area Republicans are crying foul play in the wake of the 6th Congressional District GOP convention.

Among the party’s most important tasks is choosing delegates to represent Republican voters at the national Republican convention in Cleveland this July.

Other publications have noted officials from the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz have swept through conventions elsewhere, packing conventions with Cruz supporters who in turn vote for delegates who will swing the way of the Texas senator should a Republican fail to garner the necessary 1,237 votes needed to earn the party’s nomination on the first vote at the national convention.

Cruz dropped out of the election Tuesday night following Donald Trump’s win in the Indiana primary. Trump’s other remaining opponent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, dropped out Wednesday evening.

Some Republicans are claiming the Cruz-delegate moves – which are seemingly unimportant now – occurred last month at the 6th District GOP convention, which includes party officials from Surry, Stokes, Rockingham, Caswell, Person, Granville, Durham, Orange, Alamance and Guilford Counties.

Those crying foul say individuals ineligible to be voting members at the district convention were added to a list of delegates from Surry County.

By party rules, delegates to the convention from a particular county must be appointed by a vote of the local party at the county’s convention.

According to minutes obtained, the county had its convention on March 5 at North Surry High School. The minutes indicate 31 delegates were approved to attend the district convention.

“The credentials committee confirmed that there were 31 nominees to be elected as District and State Delegates. Reggie Bowman made a motion to elect all 31 as delegates and after a second by Jerry Forestieri, the motion carried,” read the minutes from the county convention.

Via an email, county GOP secretary Karen Noonkester forwarded the 31 names to the former district secretary on March 13. In a subsequent email, that individual noted she had forwarded Surry County’s list to the district’s current secretary.

However, some members of the party said when they got to the district convention at Pilot Mountain Middle School held on April 16, something was amiss. There were more than 31 people seated as delegates from Surry County.

A list of delegates produced at the district convention was far from what Noonkester had sent on March 13. The list at the convention included 67 names as delegates to the larger convention.

An email from district secretary Bonnie Pedone to district chairman Don Webb contains the list of 67 names.

In the same email, Pedone indicates Stokes, Caswell, Person and Durham Counties had only four days remaining to submit a list of delegates.

Various attendees to the district convention say those counties were required to submit lists at the last minute at the district convention.

According to Susan McBride, a Stokes County Republican, her county was never notified of the need for a list of delegates. Additionally, the district convention’s location was moved at the last minute to Pilot Mountain Middle, giving attendees only two hours to conduct business.

McBride said she believes the 11th-hour move was an attempt to shut down discussion in opposition to any of the presented business in the name of having to vacate the school within a two-hour time frame.

McBride called the meeting “fraudulent,” and also cited an absence of minutes from the district convention.

A notice indicating the meeting would take place on April 16 at Pilot Middle can be viewed on the district party’s Facebook page. The notice indicates it was issued on March 24.

Webb did not return phone calls or respond to an email inquiring about the district convention.

In the end, supporters of Donald Trump’s candidacy were left on the outside looking in when the convention voted to send three delegates and three alternate delegates, whose names were displayed on a piece of literature paid for by the Cruz campaign, to the national convention in Cleveland.

Those delegates are bound to cast votes for Trump on the first ballot at the convention or face a $10,000 fine.

Dan Kiger, Surry County GOP chairman, did respond to inquiries, saying he simply had no idea from where the list of 67 names originated.

“We formally sent the list (of 31 names) forward,” noted Kiger.

Kiger also said the list of 67 names could be deceiving. In fact, only four people who did not appear on the official list Noonkester sent forward showed up to the district convention. Three of those dismissed themselves, and one stayed to vote.

“She had contacted Raleigh (the state GOP) and was allowed to stay and vote,” said Kiger.

“Everything was cleared up before any voting took place.”

Kiger said any issues are of little concern now, adding the vote regarding who would be delegates to the national convention came far from being decided by one vote.

With Cruz out of the election, Kiger also said it’s now time for the party to unite.

“We are like a family,” said Kiger. “When it all settles, we come together and focus on getting Republican candidates elected in 2016.”

The N.C. GOP’s general counsel, Tom Stark, said he has yet to be made aware of a formal complaint filed as a result of the 6th District convention.

Stark said if such a complaint were to be made, he would conduct an investigation and take his findings to the party’s arbitration committee. If it’s determined rules were broken, those party officials involved would be notified, and the party would attempt to remedy the situation.

Stark said the alleged issues regarding the opposing lists at the district convention are “of some concern.” However, without a formal complaint or all of the information surrounding the alleged issues, he was unable to weigh in specifically on the 6th District convention.

Stark did say eligible delegates from a county to a district convention are determined directly by the action of a county convention, a statement which would imply the only list of individuals eligible to be seated as delegates at the district convention would be the original 31 names from the county convention.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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