NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- With a Republican majority, the New Hanover County Commission thumbed its nose at the county GOP today, passing on the party's nominee to fill an open commission seat.
Earlier this week, County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said the GOP Executive Committee would choose ABC Board Chair Thomas Wolfe to fill an empty commission seat.
But by Thursday night - supporters of Derrick Hickey swung the vote to the current school board member.
At Friday's special meeting commissioner Brian Berger nominated Hickey, but no one would second his nomination. Commissioner Beth Dawson then nominated Wolfe, which got support from Chairman Woody White and Barfield.
Hickey says the vote boiled down to friends voting for friends. “I think today obviously they chose to pick one of their friends over the wishes of both the New Hanover County Republican party as well as the wishes of the voters,” Hickey said.
Chairman White says he would have gotten heat no matter who the board chose. "We could have brought Ronald Reagan back from the grave and nominated him and someone would have been upset about that,” White said.
Berger says the vote shows that there is definitely a rift in the New Hanover County Republican Party. "Civil war seems to be strong, a little bit too strong, but there is a definite divide in the Republican Party. It’s certainly true here in New Hanover county."
Wolfe acknowledged after the vote that he was just one of many qualified candidates, including Hickey. He says he'll be ready for his new job come Monday, when he'll be sworn in.
Wolfe says he can legally stay on the ABC Board and be a commissioner too, but he will step down as ABC Board Chair and abstain on any alcohol-related issues commissioners may have to vote on.
Hickey also says he finds it interesting that both he and Melissa Gott are Hispanic and they chose “an old white guy.”