This article was published in High Country Press.

The Watauga County Republican Party held its annual convention last Saturday, March 12. The convention was held at the Watauga County Courthouse and began with precinct meetings at 10:00 a.m. Guest speakers included former Charlotte mayor and 2008 gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx.

McCrory began his talk by urging North Carolina Republicans to “make tough decisions” and to capitalize on the state’s potential.“We have the talent, the resources, the universities…there’s no reason that North Carolina should not get out of this recession first,” McCrory said.

After discussing his views on Beverly Perdue’s administration and recent budget proposal, McCrory moved on to some congratulations. The seven-time Charlotte mayor applauded the Watauga GOP on their efforts during the 2010 election, during which major gains were recorded for Republicans in North Carolina.

“I’m really proud of our new leadership that you guys helped get elected,” McCrory said.

He added that the party will need to work even harder during the 2012 elections, which he believes will center around North Carolina as a “battleground state.”

“Whatever you did in 2010,” he said, “you’ve got to triple the effort.”

Following McCrory, Foxx gave a brief speech. Like the former mayor, she focused on affirming GOP leaders for their efforts in 2012.

“What I want to assure you of,” she added, “is that we’re doing our part in the U.S. House.”

Following the convention’s guest speakers, representatives from the party’s credentials, plan of organization, platform, nominating and resolutions committees spoke.

For the first time since 2008, two additions were made to the Watauga Republican Party’s official platform.

“Human life is sacred. Government must protect the unborn, the elderly and the weakest among us,” the first platform addition reads.

The second addition was made to show the party’s support for the proposed Defense of Marriage amendment to the N.C. constitution. “The Boone Town Council’s resolution opposing the Defense of Marriage amendment…does not reflect the values of the majority of county residents,” the GOP platform now reads.

Committee member Jean DiCola said these additions were made because “the 2008 platform was totally silent on the values issues.”

Watauga Republicans also voted on a resolution to urge the N.C. legislature to require a full audit of the Federal Reserve Bank before 2012. The resolution failed with a vote of 37 to 25.

While silent ballots on the resolution were being counted, County Commissioners Nathan Miller and Vince Gable took the opportunity to speak to the crowd about their decision to “get the ball rolling” on a possible sales tax referendum.

“We don’t want to impose any tax, but we need that door open…we just need the dialogue and possibly the option,” Miller said.

Gable added that he will not vote for a tax increase “unless it is critical to maintain the basic services of this county.”

McCrory Talks Local Economy, Plans for 2012

In an interview following Saturday’s Watauga County Republican Convention, seven-term Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory said he has yet to officially announce his candidacy for the 2012 N.C. governor’s race.

“I’m not ready to officially announce for governor. Right now we’re traveling and getting the pulse of the state,” McCrory said.

He did add, however, that he is pleased with the amount of bipartisan support he has received.

McCrory has been praised frequently for his economic accomplishments during his time as the mayor of Charlotte, including the creation of 200,000 jobs in Mecklenburg County. And according to McCrory, the same principles that enabled his success in Charlotte also apply to Watauga County and the High Country.

“I think it applies to both Boone and Charlotte: you concentrate on what you have and getting it to grow,” he said. “The return on investment for investing in your current job base is much greater than trying to recruit someone in from outside.”

McCrory also emphasized the same points he did in his speech: that North Carolina Republicans worked hard for success in 2010 and will have to do the same next year.

“We were declared dead in 2008 and decided not to accept that sentence. We decided to fight back through grassroots campaigning and convince people that the leadership in the North Carolina legislature needed to change, and we were successful. But we can’t assume that’s going to be sustainable for 2012,” he said.

With millions of campaign dollars coming into North Carolina from around the country, McCrory said, Republicans statewide will have to up their efforts in 2012.

“They’re going to have to fight even harder to both maintain and increase the leadership we need, both in Raleigh and in Washington,” he said.