Efforts underway to boot GOP chairman

Published 6:51 am Thursday, July 19, 2018

Movement is afoot to oust the chairman of the Stanly County Republican Party.

A number of local Republicans are appealing to the N.C. Republican Party to assist with the removal of Phil Burr as the party’s local chairman.

Gerald Poplin is one of the county’s Republicans calling for immediate change.

“Sometimes there’s dissension in the church and it may not be the fault of the preacher, but in every case the preacher has to go,” said Poplin, analogizing the party as a church.

“It’s time to take back our county,” he added.    

Burr has been the county’s GOP chairman for roughly a decade and during a time when Stanly voters have been consistently electing Republicans.

In fact, every Stanly County elected office is presently held by a Republican. Only the Albemarle City Council has elected Democrats.

Of the county’s 41,518 registered voters, Republicans continue to represent the most at 18,293. Unaffiliated voters are second at 12,088, followed by Democrats at 10,995.

Burr claims no state party official has contacted him about problems with his GOP leadership.

“I haven’t had any complaints come my way,” Burr said.

But Burr’s critics have long alleged the chairman as prejudicial among the Republicans the local party supports while other Republican candidates are forced to fend for themselves, according to Poplin.

However, the GOP primary in May signaled a significant shift in the county when a few of Burr’s preferred candidates lost their re-election bids, including his son N.C. Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly).

Since then local Republicans have re-ignited their pleas to state party officials to rid Phil Burr as chairman, Poplin said.

Complaints to state officials began in March 2017 when local Republicans cried foul after the county convention introduced new rules regarding officer nominations. As a result, the meeting manipulated the nomination rules in a way to exclude a fair and transparent process.

Opponents used words like “shameful” and “trickery” to describe the process.

However, complaints made then to the state GOP led to no action or change. At that time state party leaders did not return telephone messages left by The Stanly News & Press seeking comment about the convention incident.   

Opponents contend Phil Burr’s leadership has led to a number of other party deficiencies, including those that concern state GOP officials, Poplin said.

One of the areas of concern relates to fundraising. More Republicans are refusing to donate money to the local party.

“We can’t raise money as long as Phil is in charge,” Poplin said.

Poplin said other county GOP offices keep significant balances in the party’s banking accounts. However, Stanly’s Republican Party has barely over $600 in its checking account.

Such a sum leaves little fiscal flexibility in electing Republicans for the mid-term elections in November.

Another issue is that Stanly’s GOP no longer has a party headquarters.

Poplin said if Phil Burr leaves as party chairman, he knows someone who has committed a site for a GOP headquarters.

The party has failed to host an annual Lincoln-Reagan-Day Dinner in a number of years.

Another bone of contention for state officials, Poplin said, is that Stanly County did not send a delegate to last month’s NCGOP State Convention in Hickory.

Poplin also questioned why the local party no longer has a women’s club.

Phil Burr counters that he’s fulfilling his requirements as party chairman and holding the required quarterly meetings.

He also argues that Poplin is spearheading this campaign to oust him from the party and that the angst lies mostly with him and not other Republicans.

Phil Burr said Poplin has a personal vendetta after the chairman led his removal from the Board of Elections in 2015.

However, other Republicans that preferred to remain nameless and not comment for this article echoed many of the same sentiments as Poplin.

It remains unclear what, if any, action the state GOP will do about forcing Phil Burr out as chairman.

With the mid-term elections looming, the chairman’s detractors want him gone immediately.

“We want to strike while the iron is hot,” Poplin said.

Ideally, they’d prefer GOP leaders convince Phil Burr to resign his post for the good of the party.

If not, Poplin said he hopes state leaders will somehow invalidate the county’s last GOP convention and allow Republicans to immediately elect new officers.

Phil Burr remains confident there’s little critics can do until the next county convention in 2019.

“There’s really nothing they can do until the next election anyway,” Phil Burr said.

Another option could be legal action.

“If we can raise $110,000 to elect Wayne Sasser, we’ll raise enough to hire an attorney,” Poplin said.

A lawsuit, however, would take time.

Phil Burr said he prefers to focus on the upcoming election.

“We’re going to concentrate on electing Republicans in November,” he said.

Some Republicans, however, are wondering if the chairman will support those candidates that defeated his chosen candidates, like Sasser.

Others candidates could worry what impact the county’s political climate might have on their race.

Congressman Richard Hudson might have an interest in what transpires in Stanly as he, too, is mounting a re-election bid.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.