By Paul Gable
A new day dawned Saturday for the Horry County Republican Party when the ‘Old Guard’, ‘establishment’ or whatever you want to call it was swept out of power at the party’s biennial convention.
The three top offices in the HCGOP were won by relative newcomers to the local party – Roger Slagle-Chairman, Jeremy Halpin-Vice Chairman and Tracy Beanz Diaz-State Executive Committee member (pictured above).
The feeling that change was needed in the local party has been building for a while, but accelerated over the last month. Two years ago, there were approximately 206 voting delegates at the convention. This year that number increased to approximately 370.
The increased surge in participation can be at least partially linked to two events this week at which approximately 400 people attended each time. Both events were hosted by local Republican Patriot activist Chad Caton. Caton has battled with members of the ‘Old Guard’ for the past two years about how the local party was being run.
Wednesday night saw an event in Aynor to introduce Tracy Beanz Diaz to delegates and the general public. The highlight of the night for many of the attendees was a speech given by former President Donald Trump’s first National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, in support of his friend Diaz. Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones also spoke in support of Diaz’ candidacy and additionally worked hard at helping to organize the event.
Friday night saw an event in Myrtle Beach where Slagle, Halpin and Diaz all spoke to the crowd about their vision for a new Republican Party in Horry County. The main speaker, however, was Lin Wood, attorney for President Trump and a candidate for the South Carolina Republican Party Chairman post at next month’s state party convention. Wood also mingled with the crowd at the Aynor event talking and taking photos with the attendees.
Change is building in the state. Many people who have become active Republicans in the last five years are disgusted with the ‘good ole boy’ system that has run Republican Party politics in the state since the party became a majority among South Carolina voters.
State party Chairman Drew McKissick is running for reelection to his post. However, if Horry County and other recent county conventions are any indicator, Lin Wood could well oust McKissick from office.
Neither state chairman candidate was supposed to speak at the Horry County convention. However, McKissick was granted the floor by one of the ‘Old Guard.’ When McKissick took the microphone at least half of the delegates rose from their seats in protest and went into the hall to chant for Wood.
Having heard both Wood and McKissick speak at events, I submit Wood is the much more captivating and popular speaker of the two.
The results of voting for local delegates to the state convention will not be known for several more days. Based on the response to Wood and the success of the candidates he supported locally over the past week, I expect he will carry the majority of delegate votes from Horry County to the state convention.
For the Horry County Republican Party it is new leaders with a new direction and new vision.
Diaz commented on the results, “I think it was a very good win for integrity today.”
There were also some significant losers yesterday. Rep. Tom Rice immediately comes to mind. No longer will he have a pliant party in his home county willing to help fill his campaign coffers and provide friendly crowds at his events.
The newcomers are generally negative on Rice and his vote to impeach the former president. Rice campaign consultant Walter Whetsell, another insider with the ‘Old Guard’, predicted the negativity toward Rice would begin to fade a couple of weeks after the January 6th vote. If anything, the anger toward Rice among local voters and the feeling he must be replaced only continues to grow to the benefit right now of Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson who has been actively campaigning throughout the South Carolina 7th Congressional District for the last several months to replace Rice in Washington, D.C.
S.C. Reps. Russell Fry and Heather Crawford and former S.C. Rep. Alan Clemmons lost significant influence in the party Saturday. Fry, Crawford and Clemmons always had a sympathetic ear and help with raising money and the urging off of potential challengers from the ‘Old Guard’. As one veteran politico said Saturday, whenever Fry, Crawford or Clemmons walked into a local party event, they acted like they were in charge. No longer!
This help for perceived party insiders also came from the state level. McKissick funneled thousands of dollars to directly promote the Crawford and Clemmons campaigns against Republican challengers in the 2020 Republican Primary. In other districts in South Carolina, McKissick funneled party funds to challengers in an effort to unseat incumbent Republican House members he didn’t feel “toed the line” for party insiders.
Diaz said integrity came back to the Horry County Republican Party with Saturday’s leadership results. It can be restored at the state level if the support for Wood continues to grow and he knocks McKissick off in three weeks.