NCGOP opens convention in Wilmington


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Republicans won control of the state House and Senate last fall for the first time since the 1870s. This weekend they’re holding their first state convention in Wilmington for the first time anyone can remember.

Republicans are gathered at the Wilmington Convention Center to select a new chairman and to get excited by speakers as the 2012 elections are right around the corner.

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“We are right on the issues, and the policies of Gov. Perdue and President Obama have been terribly destructive to our economy, to our ability to create jobs,” state Republican Party chair Robin Hayes said. “People are tired of it, and they say they want a change.”

A change is exactly what happened back in November, as Republican candidates had significant success in Southeastern North Carolina and across the state.

This weekend nearly 1,300 Republican delegates are visiting the Port City for their state convention.

“What a wonderful place to have a convention,” Hayes said. “Our folks are ready to win in 2011 and 2012. Here is a chance to prepare, to inspire, to do the things we need to do to be successful in the next election. Folks are focused.”

Wilmington’s Ilario Pantano could not beat incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre for his 7th District seat in Congress last year. But he’s ready to try again next year and glad this year’s convention is in his own backyard.

“This is exciting,” Pantano said. “We haven’t had a Republican convention here in Wilmington in a very long time. I think that the way that we reformed this last election there is real reason to cross the state to feel like Wilmington has something special going on. Conservatives are energized to be here.”

The convention, which continues through Sunday, is expected to have an economic impact of about $2.7 million in New Hanover County, according to the Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“I think there is going to be some great second and third order effects financially certainly for the community,” Pantano said. “Folks are going to be here spending money for the weekend, and that’s going to be wonderful. There are a lot of events being hosted. We are hosting events, so that’s putting money back in the economy.”

Everyone we talked to said there’s a lot of excitement as North Carolina Republicans try to hold on to the General Assembly and win the governor’s office in 2012

We asked Hayes about the indictment of John Edwards today. Hayes said, “I think the Democrats and press need to react to that. We’re here about winning elections.”