GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Forget Iowa and New Hampshire for a few days: A lot of political firepower and focus will be directed at Greensboro this weekend.
That’s when the North Carolina Republican Convention welcomes three men running for president, three for governor and numerous members of Congress to the Koury Convention Center for speeches and confabs Thursday through Sunday.
This lineup will include the last two men to be atop the party’s national ballot – former President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence – plus the candidate running second to Trump in most current polls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pence just announced his long-rumored presidential bid on Wednesday, the latest of 11 confirmed GOP candidates. None of the others have announced plans to attend, although state officials have said they are welcome.
Trump, Pence and DeSantis each will speak at a key meal: DeSantis at the Old North State Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Pence at the First in Freedom Lunch at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and then Trump at the Grand Old Party Dinner at 6:30 p.m.
The plans also provide opportunities for speeches by various officeholders and would-be candidates in the GOP realm.
That includes the three men with Greensboro ties who want the GOP nomination to replace term-limited Democrat Roy Cooper as governor – state Treasurer Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem/UNC-Greensboro; Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Greensboro native and UNCG grad; and former U.S. Rep Mark Walker, a Greensboro resident and its former representative in Congress.
This convention is “about fundraising, voter turnout and attention,” elections expert Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University said in an email. “Voters and donors are motivated by the top of the ticket; the party certainly knows that and is acting accordingly.
“Headliner national candidates will also place the convention in the national media spotlight, which will draw more money and attention. People in Des Moines just aren’t going to be as interested in Dale Folwell as they are in Ron DeSantis.”
The GOP’s schedule of events showed seminars and county-level meetings but was unclear about when specific candidates might be heard, but Walker’s spokesperson said he would be speaking Saturday morning. U.S. Sen. Ted Budd also is scheduled to attend, but Sen. Thom Tillis is not listed in the most recent documentation of official attendees.
Six of the seven Republicans currently serving North Carolina in the House are scheduled: 3rd District Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk), 7th District Rep. David Rouzer (R-Wilmington), 8th District Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), 9th District Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Southern Pines)and 11th District Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-Flat Rock). Only 10th District Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Statesville) is missing.
In addition to Folwell, Republican incumbents from the Council of State who are scheduled to attend include Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.
NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby and Ralph Reed, founder of and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, are scheduled to speak at breakfasts. State Sen. Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore also will have roles.
Catawba College professor and Old North State Politics blogger Michael Bitzer maintains a spreadsheet of suggested and verified candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, the Council of State offices and the NC Supreme Court in 2024.
In addition to the three running for governor, there are five confirmed Republicans seeking to replace Robinson, but only one who for sure wants to replace Attorney General Josh Stein, the lone Democrat running for governor.
Causey has announced plans to run for re-election, but Troxler has not announced his intentions. Neither has Truitt, and no one else is listed for either of those races.
Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Rep. Ben Moss (R-Moore) are running for commissioner of Labor, and there is one Republican running to succeed Folwell.
Former Greensboro City Council member Jim Kee is on the list for both lieutenant governor and state auditor, which has two other confirmed Republican candidates.
How the dynamics of the overlapping visits by the three presidential candidates this weekend might work out is to be seen. It’s not certain if any of them will be present at the convention site at the same time.
Trump and Pence have been alienated since Jan. 6, 2021, when Pence said he could not change the electoral process that confirmed that Joe Biden had been elected president. Trump spoke harshly about Pence, long a loyalist, and calls to “hang Mike Pence” were part of the message and imagery from the thousands of Trump backers who stormed the Capitol in a violent insurrection designed to overturn the 2020 election.
Pence sat for about seven hours in April to provide testimony before a federal grand jury looking into Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 and in his handling of top-secret federal documents.
A federal court had ordered that Pence cooperate with Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, although Pence and Trump both fought the subpoena Pence was served. It’s unclear when Smith might conclude his investigation.
“January 6 was a tragic day in the life of our nation,” Pence said during his announcement on Wednesday. “President Trump’s words were reckless and endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol. But the American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”
Trump, who earlier has called Pence “a nice man,” has been aggressive in attacking DeSantis, whose aggressive and sometimes controversial tactics as governor have moved him to the right of Trump on the political specter. PACs backing both candidates have launched numerous attack ads.