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"Excerpts - The GOP Tapes: Jack Hawke, N.C. GOP Chairman, 1987-95"

Reprinted with permission from the Raleigh News & Observer (July 6, 1997).

Hawke has a unique perspective on the state Republican Party. He's been a campaign manager, congressional candidate, a top official in two Republican administrations in Raleigh. He was party chairman when the GOP achieved some of its biggest successes.

1987: The Battle To Be Chairman
How Hawke outmaneuvered the Congressional Club and its leaders, Carter Wrenn and Tom Ellis, to win the post of GOP chairman.

"We looked at the state chairman's role as a pure organizational effort. Carter's modus operandi had been to come into county conventions and maybe not have the votes when he hit the floor of a convention, so he would delay … and have all kinds of things to stretch the convention out and then the other side would start to go home and then they would bring it to a vote and win.

"So we decided that we were going to start at the precinct level instead of at the county convention level. And so we took over precincts all over the state and, when we did, we did actually what they had done to us in the past. If we had one more vote than they did, not one of their people got to be a delegate. We slated them all out … even if we had to put in names of people we knew weren't going. They didn't get on there.

"And then we did that at the county level. The precincts we hadn't taken over, if we had taken over a majority, we slated them out at the county level. Carter still likes to talk about, 'That was a close convention.' We had 90 percent of the votes going into the convention. We had them beat badly because we had just slated them out all over the state."

Showdown in Wake County
How Hawke recalls the battle for delegates at the Wake County GOP convention, a stronghold for the Congressional Club.

"Here in Wake County we had a heck of a convention. I've always said you should never lose a convention when you control the machinery of the convention. They had the county chairmen. They had my friend, Chuck Neely, as chairman of the convention, who is a great convention chairman. And we had, I can't remember the numbers, but it was over 2,000 people at a county convention in Wake County.

"You always have a test vote at some place in the convention. Usually it is over an issue or something down the line to see where you stand. We decided to do it right up front, to get this thing out of the way. And what happens is once you accept the credentials and everything you then elect a convention chairman. Chuck's temporary chairman until … It's a formality. We challenged him as convention chairman, right at the beginning of the convention - and beat him. Old Chuck hasn't forgiven me to this day.

"And then they started their delaying procedures … That Wake County convention went to like 3 o'clock in the morning until we finally got down to our vote, but when we got there we slated them out and away we went. I am not proud of slaying people out and I later changed, after I became chairman doing it, I changed the rules of the party so it can't be done again. Now you have to give preference to people who attend the convention."

Mr. Tom Ellis
How Hawke describes the working relationship between the Congressional Club's top two figures - Carter Wrenn and Tom Ellis.

"Right until recently whenever Carter talked about Tom Ellis, it was Mr. Ellis. I've never heard him call him Tom. And I think that, to a degree, defines what their relationship was. Mr. Ellis was always the top person. Carter had been a college student that they picked up from nowhere and put him into a position.

"I think Carter has tremendous political skills and savvy, moxie, and has developed a real feel for things, and he is a political power in his own right, but as long as it was the Club I think Mr. Ellis was the top person and Carter dutifully worked for him … And if you go directly to Tom, Tom always says, 'Well, we will have to talk to Carter about that.' He is very good at not giving you an answer himself, off the top. … It gives him time to decide exactly what he wants to do. He hasn't committed to you.

"Consequently, my relationship with those folks has been that they have never broken their word on anything. Now sometimes they don't give you their word. But the couple of times when we were on other sides, I was told up front and I respect that. I have never known them, and I know there has been a lot of stuff now with this break with Jesse that you can't trust them and so on, my relationship has been that, once they gave their word politically, they didn't break it."

1990: Controversy in First Helms-Gantt Race
How Hawke recalls events leading up to the ballot security program by the GOP and Congressional Club in the last month of the '90 Senate race that prompted a lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department.

"We got down to a few weeks before the election and I said, 'Carter, you know, we've got another $35,000 that we can do something for the senator; what would you like?' And so he called back and he said we would like to question voters that aren't legal voters that may be voting. The plan was to send a postcard to every household that the person was no longer a qualified voter in that voting place and tell them if they voted there they had broken the state law.

"So Carter sent his consultant over to run the program. And it is one of the few times I let something get out of my hands and I shouldn't have. He came back with a card they wanted to send. And I went to Bob Hunter, who was chairman of the elections board, and I went to Alex Brock, who was executive director, and said, 'Look this over and tell me if we've stated the law correctly.' And both of them said yes. So then you decide we've only got $35,000, if we send it statewide, that would be $350,000. Where to send it? That's an easy decision. You send it where the most positive Democrat voters are.

"Ninety-five percent of black voters vote Democrat. Or if you look precinct by precinct and you take the precincts that are most solid Democrat, they tend to be black. We mailed them to those precincts. That was not a racial decision. That was a political decision. Where it got out of my hands, and I think the mistake was made, I believe the consultant mailed to people who still lived there, too. If it had gone the way I had just laid it out, which was the way we approved it, I would still be fighting that because I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

"But I am convinced, because I have talked to enough people that got the card that still lived at their address, I am convinced that somehow whether it was the computer, whether it was the list, whether it was the consultant, … but somehow it was sent also to people who still lived there and the court ruled that the state party should not or could not be involved in any voter security programs in the future unless they were cleared by the court."

Building The GOP, One Person At A Time
How Hawke and the GOP took to churches to counter a Democrat voter registration drive and won lots of new Republican voters.

"What we came up with was a program where we would hire people around the state for a brief period of time in churches and they would take their church registration lists and they would come up with everybody on the church list that wasn't registered, primarily in the fundamentalist churches, and then they would contact those people and try to get them registered.

"We would put that thing, very quietly, without ever announcing it or doing anything, we would put that into play every time they would come in with their big announced registration drive, and at the end of the period we would have outregistered them every time. Whose idea? I don't know. I would like to say it was mine.

"… You would go to the minister and say, 'Do you have a young person in your church who would like to work in a political job for a month?' or whatever. And we would pick them up for a month, or the Club would pick them up, or a campaign would pick them, and for that month they would take the church registration.

"But the deal was this person was to identify all the church members who weren't registered and then call on them and see if he could get them registered and see if they would register Republican. … That was not a Christian Coalition deal. That was a Republican Party deal. But it worked very well."

Realignment of Parties
What Hawke sees as the main factors fueling the Republican Party's growth in North Carolina.

The base vote of the Democratic Party has to be looked at I think first. The base vote is the minority voter, it is what I will call organized labor - whether you want to refer to the teachers' union or the AFL-CIO - is a liberal vote and used to be a good old boy network, and people whose granddaddy would roll over in the grave if they ever voted for a Republican, still fighting the War Between the States.

"The one factor or two factors out of that old base of the Democrat vote that has changed is that that feeling of still fighting the Civil War is beginning to fade. And where it remains, as the Democrat Party becomes smaller and the Republican Party becomes bigger, the Democratic Party becomes more black. So even though some of those people can't force themselves into changing their registration, they find themselves voting for Jesse Helms.

"Secondly, the good old network that was in place for so long in this state of North Carolina is no longer in existence. I think there are two factors for that. One of them is Jim Hunt. Hunt didn't want the good old boys to run his party any more. He wanted a Jim Hunt Party. And he redesigned his party for himself, which took out of play a lot of the old power structure to a degree within the process.

"There's also the national trend. You can't discount that. Look at the whole South. The whole South has gone more Republican. Democrats made a lot of mistakes on the national level. Nixon starting with the Southern strategy had an impact on it, but then the nomination of people like McGovern, and Mondale, and Humphrey, all of them one after another, that arguably could be from the left wing of their party, pushed the South further to the Republicans.

"Finally, North Carolina has had a tremendous influx of people who have come in from other areas of the nation where it isn't a dirty word to say you are a Republican. … And I think the biggest change that has occurred in my time in the Republican Party in North Carolina and the biggest hurdle we had to overcome is that it has now become socially acceptable to be a Republican. I would like to say it was because there was a brilliant state chairman in the '80s that brought it all about. But I think we did better than other states in the '80s because we had a Jim Martin for governor and we had this influx of people coming in."

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