Festering dissent fractures the Dare County Republican Party

By on March 5, 2018

Clockwise: Sen. Bill Cook, Ed Danko, Commissioner Steve House. Jordan Hennessy, Rep. Beverly Boswell, Commissioner Jim Tobin.

In 2014, when Republicans took control of the Dare County Board of Commissioners for the first time in many decades, everything seemed to be going the Grand Old Party’s way.

Four years earlier, Republicans had taken control of the N.C. General Assembly for the first time in over a century.

A GOP governor was in place, and soon, both of Dare’s representatives in the state legislature would be Republicans.

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But by the year 2016, the party seemed to be having difficulties, and factions were steadily emerging.

Trouble has been brewing much longer. At its core, Dare’s GOP is a microcosm of what’s happening in other counties and nationwide.

Getting someone to discuss publicly the festering division is impossible.

But its easy to see it, hidden in the buzzwords and comments on social media, the local Tea Party blog or newsletter and in off-the-record interviews.

One faction can trace its origins to the Tea Party movement and the time when it shifted from functioning as a grassroots bipartisan organization to a becoming a faction within the GOP party structure.

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The members of this faction are not new to Republicans. They’ve been around since the days of the John Birch Society and the Barry Goldwater campaign for president in 1964.

They are socially conservative and rabidly anti-tax. Many believe in broad-based conspiracy theories such as the United Nation’s “Agenda 21,” which they claim will lead to a one-world government.

And they consider themselves the “true Republicans,”  holding any party member who disagrees with their viewpoint in contempt and using the term RINO (Republican In Name Only) to tarnish their opponents.

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There really isn’t a name to identify the other faction, although mainstream or moderate Republicans seems to be the most common.

They are the non-Tea Party Republicans who hold more conservative values when compared to Democrats  but are not bound by rigid rules regarding taxes, social issues and bipartisan cooperation.

Locally, a turning point was reached when Beverly Boswell was elected to the Dare County Board of Commissioners and began to openly spar with other Republicans on the board.

Boswell’s pushback followed a pattern and leads to yet another faction within the Dare GOP and at its center: Jordan Hennessey, the young legislative aide to state Sen. Bill Cook from Kill Devil Hills.

Three years ago, Hennessey had aligned himself with local watermen looking for a way to more permanently fund the dredging of Oregon Inlet. They found a funding source by proposing to siphon off taxes collected by the Outer Banks Tourism Board for beach nourishment and redirecting those toward dredging.

Republican commissioners Bob Woodard, Wally Overman and Jack Shea balked at the plan, while Boswell supported the move and took to social media attacking the Tourism Board and beach nourishment.

From there, Boswell was often seen in the company of Hennessey and Jim Tobin, who owns Pirates Cove Marina and was eventually appointed to the Board of Commissioners last spring.

Later, when Hennessey appeared to be targeting the job of Mike Remige, the well-liked manager of the state-owned Jennette’s Pier, Boswell refused to join her fellow Republicans on the board in opposing those efforts.

In 2016, Boswell was elected to the state House of Representatives, and the Dare GOP chose Rob Ross to replace her.

Also, Steve House, a political newcomer and linked by party insiders to Boswell and Hennessey, defeated Democrat Monica Thibidoeux and joined the Dare BOC.

During Boswell’s first term in Raleigh, her relationship with the GOP-controlled board in Dare was the opposite of what one might expect.

Rather than working with her fellow Republicans, Boswell went against the board’s wishes on a number of issues.

From repealing the plastic bag ban, creating partisan school board elections and supporting offshore drilling, to backing a second attempt by Cook’s office to remove Remige from his job at the pier, the GOP members of the board and Boswell held polar opposite positions.

Additionally, Boswell appeared to go out of her way to punish her former board colleagues for differences of opinions they had during her tenure as a commissioner.

Boswell introduced legislation to force the Tourism Board to reallocate the funds they collected in order to direct mony to projects and uses Boswell favored. In the battle over the Tourism Board, both Boswell and Cook’s office granted local blogger and lightning rod, Ray Midgett, extraordinary access to state legal and audit resources.

She also took $1.5 million of state bond money slated for a new College of The Albemarle campus in Dare County and gave it to Currituck County, because both she, and Cook’s office, didn’t like the ownership formula Dare proposed.

That setup would allow the state to fund a portion of construction through the bond money, while the county would own the facility and take responsibility for maintenance.

At the same time, Cook’s office ordered a mini-audit of the Tourism Board and stepped back from Boswell’s dispute with the Dare board over COA, allowing her to control the situation and the disposition of the bond funds.

The unusual actions continued throughout 2017, with a Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners passing a number of resolutions opposing legislation and positions taken by the county’s two Republican legislators.

Last spring, Margarette Umphlett resigned from the board, and a Boswell/Hennessey-ally Jim Tobin was appointed to replace Umphlett.

When the Board of Commissioners decided to raise property taxes for the first time in several years, Tobin and House opposed the measure.

But neither offered an alternative budget nor did either point out specific areas where the budget could be cut. The tax increase triggered another round of infighting within the Dare GOP, with board members angered over the fact a Republican-controlled board raised taxes.

The result of that in-fighting has led to Ed Danko, another GOP insider with ties to Hennessey — who helped Danko gain an appointment to the Roanoke Island Historical Association as the N.C. Senate’s ex-officio designee — facing off against Ann Petera for the At-Large board seat being left empty with the retirement of Jack Shea.

Shea endorsed Petera at a GOP Executive Board meeting, but Danko, who was the party’s Public Relations chair at the time, did not release that information, nor did he include Petara in a photo Danko sent out announcing his own and other GOP candidates filing for office.

And on the last day of filing, Commissioner Rob Ross found himself with a GOP opponent for his seat with speculation that Hennessey or the Tea Party faction played a role in Ronnie Merrell’s recruitment.

While party officials may continue to publicly portray the situation as merely a difference of opinion, the differences in ideology, compounded by clashes between Cook, Boswell, Hennesey and elected GOP officials in Dare County, indicates there was more taking place behind the scenes than what party leadership is willing to admit.

And those differences are now manifesting themselves in primary challenges, almost open warfare in public and on social media. That could spell real trouble for the Grand Old Party in the November election and beyond.

Comments

  • Co

    Wishful thinking, is what I get from this article’s authors. It’s their attempt to sow doubt in the minds of people so as to sway a vote for anyone but a Republican during the next election? What the “hit piece” actually does is reveal democracy in action in lieu of a politicians establishing policy by a closed minded, dictatorial political party.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 11:22 am
  • Peters

    “Many believe in broad-based conspiracy theories such as the United Nation’s “Agenda 21,” which they claim will lead to a one-world government.”

    Conspiracy theory or Conspiracy Fact? Many Democrats are waking up to Agenda 21.

    https://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/about-us.html

    Speaking of Agenda…its very apparent where yours is.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 1:50 pm
  • Brian Twiddy

    You know what is great about this entire article, we are in a primary, and all of the folks futures will be decided by “we the people”. We the people are ready for new, real, honest representation. We have known for quite sometime about the non sense and corruption going on with these group of people. I for one, am happy to finally see it come to light, so we in Dare County can finally get rid of them. It is time DARE COUNTY, for you to get behind, Anne Petera, Bobby Hanig, Bob Steinburg, and all of those who are not involved with this crew. It saddens me to say, but Clark Twiddy is one of the crew with this Jordan Hennessy, Beverly and Ed Danko as well. Bill Cook and Jordan recruited Clark, merely to do their bidding and to keep this Jordan “Kid” in power. Many of the people I have spoken to have been saying this all along. From what I do know, the Dare GOP is strong despite these few bad apples. I have spoken to many today who have assured me the unity is tight, and they will not let a few divisive people try to ruin the good progress that has taken place in the Dare GOP. So, if anything, this article is good news. It is time to rally behind the correct people, and get rid of the cancer that has been brought in to the GOP. Again, WE NEED TO GET BEHIND, BOB STEINBURG FOR SENATE, BOBBY HANIG FOR HOUSE AND ANNE PETERA FOR AT-LARGE COMMISSIONER. These are really good people, with long successful resumes, and proven leadership success, that are very well thought of. I have met each of them and believe they are the future of our success in NC.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 4:03 pm
  • Joe Smith

    I am just waiting for Agenda 22. I think that’s going to get us.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 4:32 pm
  • OBXnative

    A political hit job by Mr. Walker who erroneously calls the Tea Party “a faction within the GOP party structure” and traces its origins to “the John Birch Society and the Barry Goldwater campaign for president in 1964.” Most people who follow politics know better than that. And they are also aware that both the Democratic and Republican parties are currently engaged in internal disputes over ideology and direction.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 5:34 pm
  • Hal Shurtleff

    Agenda 21 is a reality not a theory. Here is a link to a recent presentation on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRokoocSPQQ

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 5:53 pm
  • sortudo

    What are the candidates stances on the Mid Currituck County Bridge?

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 6:10 pm
  • Cliff Blakely

    Who is this Danko character? Have seen his name pop up twice recently. Where is he from and how long has he lived here?

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 7:29 pm
  • WombatNC

    UN Agenda 21?
    Oh yes, those powerful military units dressed out in their powder blue uniforms and equipped with their white tanks and vehicles. Better be careful, they’re going to take over the world. Get your doomsday shelter prepped and your weapons locked and loaded ’cause here they come!!
    The people who believe in this nonsense have NO idea what the UN does, it’s mission statement, how it’s goverened or any knowledge of the good the organization does on a daily basis. The World Health Org., UNICEF, the UN High Commission on Refugees are just a few of the organizations departments that help out the worlds most desperate.
    http://www.un.org/en/index.html

    The same people promoting this conspiracy theory are same people who call themselves Christians; with this mentality it’s like more like hypo-Christians.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 7:51 pm
  • Manteoer

    Ed Danko is someone in the republican party whom threatened to make it difficult for one certain business once elected so the GOP got rid of him representing them. Obviously he isn’t from here with a last name like danko.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 8:11 pm
  • Hank M.

    Once again the tail attempting to wag the dog. Local & state elections are coming, time to start with the ginning up of negative narratives for the lemmings to use against anyone who dares to run against or fend off a challenge from a Democrat. This conspiracy laced gossip article is a poorly written, poorly sourced political hit piece. A thin collection of blatantly biased rumor and rant. When are we to expect the Tess Judge puff piece with glamour shot?

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 8:21 pm
  • Thinking About The Future

    Thanks so much for this very informative article. Very helpful to get the big picture.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 8:29 pm
  • Dano

    To Wombat, Many Christians have provided there time and money to help needy people at home and abroad. I wonder if you have.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 9:08 pm
  • Dano

    We need more real local news not an outlet for liberals.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 9:14 pm
  • Really?

    And yet, with all the supposed “festering division” of the Republicans all the harmonious Democrats can seem to do is, lose, lose, lose.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 9:37 pm
  • ken fucci

    is agenda 22 the same as Catch 22?

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 9:55 pm
  • OBX Resident

    Yea, ‘Agenda 21 is reality, not a theory’ (pause, while I take a lift off of my spliff, puff, puff, cough, cough), and the earth is flat. Here is a webpage that proves it is reality: https://theflatearthsociety.org/home/index.php/about-the-society

    Now back to my spliff.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 10:32 pm
  • Rick Shaftan

    What this article calls “Agenda 21” is known by most people as “smart growth” — a nice name for high-density social engineering housing projects with lots of subsidized housing. It’s advocated by radical environmental extremist kooks who hate cars, suburbs and America.

    These same kooks now have control of Democratic Party nominations in most of the country, including all of North Carolina. And as liberal as some of our Republicans are, and hopefully some will be defeated in the primary, they’re Jesse Helms compared to the neo-Communists the Democrats are running.

    Monday, Mar 5 @ 11:18 pm
  • oliver blackwell

    just read this, and what we need, is people like this young man from Va,Delegate Nick Freitas gives a moving speech on the House Floor. Does mind offending other people to get his point across.
    http://blackieblackwell.com/media/openandhonestdebate.mp4

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 6:34 am
  • Wow

    Where are the links and sources for this desperate hit Piece? I’d rather be in a party that bickers than one who is lock step aimed at taking everything you have. Democrats are the party of taking things away.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 7:11 am
  • Perry

    This gang also was instrumental in recruiting and openly backing a primary opponent to Bob Steinburg, a former Democrat and backer of Cooper in the last election.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 9:18 am
  • Get Over Yourselves

    All the people complaining about the article should do something about it. Create your own media outlet since you all are so knowledgeable and think this article was wrong. The OBX Voice has gained popularity over the years due to its transparency and ability to convey important local news and information. Let’s see if you can do the same.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 9:51 am
  • Barbara Schmidt

    Really enjoyed all the outraged Republican comments! Keep on keeping on OBV, you nailed it and we’re with you!

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 10:21 am
  • Barbara Schmidt

    Pizzagate anyone?

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 10:30 am
  • Eugene

    I think most of you are missing one of the points made in this article. How is it that a 23 year old “boy” is pulling the strings of the GOP in Northeastern NC? Hennessy is a legislative assistant. What election did he win? The local GOP should be more worried about how they allowed this kid to manipulate them. Don’t be fooled by Agenda 21, Hennessy has his own Agenda.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 12:45 pm
  • Nickrite

    Nice hatchet piece on Bev from the leftie OBV.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 2:04 pm
  • Boroson

    Must everyone who are labeled as something agree on all points? Do all Protestants agree on everything? How about UAW members? Of course there is disagreement within the GOP just as there is disagreement within the Democratic Party. I disagree with many things that those in my party stand for and do. I disagree with things my elected officials have done or said. Primary elections are for those who differ in their views and who wish to run for elected seats to air their differences before the members of their own party. The party’s members get to choose who they wish to be their candidate. It’s an internal process. In the internal matters discussed in the article above, if one is not a member of the GOP, his opinions are meaningless and if he is a member, he should limit his comments to fellow members, in the appropriate setting. In my opinion, this article is written like most, full of gossip, innuendo and lacking fact.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 2:48 pm
  • George

    The GOP is the big tent party. It is nice the Dems do not have enough people in office to even write about. I was the only student in the sixth grade to vote for Barry Goldwater and was a DINO for all my misguided youth.

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 3:23 pm
  • Spoony Rae

    How refreshing to finally see an article about what most people already know

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 6:55 pm
  • Greg

    The rise of the Tea Party is what caused legislative gridlock in Congress. Their principles have been shown to be unconstitutional. that has carried to state legislatures . The GOP majority in Raleigh has proposed a slew of unconstitutional measures and has been told by even the Supreme Court to cease and desist. The waste our tax dollars fighting for their illegal proposals They have cost NC money and damaged our image with their backwards ignorant ideas. These ideas span restricted voting rights, illegal voting districts and measures to diminish our environmental quality. The Cook office has been especially environmentallly uniformed as it relates to water quality and it’s importantance to commercial fishing and our Visitor Economy. Ms Boswell is simply unqualified to hold any position in government. She has thumbed her nose at her constituents.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 8:14 am
  • Greg

    Ps. The state gop has levied backdoor taxes by way of sales tax on labor and a doubling of DMV fees. A duplicitous lot at best

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 8:24 am
  • John

    Chickens coming home to roost for the GOP all over the country. Years of stoking the fire under the more unhinged conservative elements of the party to gin up votes on election day have gone from creating a reliable fringe voting block to a frightening core voting block. That political sea change is now sweeping through Dare County.
    The good news is that the public seems to finally be waking up to the perils of this scatterbrained leadership and voting accordingly in special elections. Hopefully that trend continues all the way through November and beyond.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 9:06 am
  • Paul

    This Hennessey boy will be out of politics very soon. He hitched to Bill Cook who’s services were no longer needed in the State Senate, thus him being drawn out of his own district. That is really bad for a sitting Senator that his colleagues didnt even want him there. Cook allowed this boy to get way to big for his britches. And as Cooks little handy boy this kid pissed off a lot of very influential Republicans. This boy has disrespected enough people that his future is sealed. When Cook is gone this kid will have nothing in politics. You just dont go around disrespecting and trying to screw over people who have been around a lot longer not just in this world but in politics. This little boy will soon find out how fast he will be irrelevant. No Cook=No Hennessey.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 9:20 am
  • William

    Does Dare County have a chapter of the John Birch Society?

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 12:37 pm
  • Mattie Lawson

    Very disappointing. Who does this help? Readers, please, do your homework before dismissing anyone due to hearsay. Talk to the candidates. We will always have differences so distinguish those who will listen from those marching to the drumbeat of a party eager to grow big government, erase private rights and use the media to control local politics.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 2:48 pm
  • Carter McKay

    I never realized Dare County had so many political scientists on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Oh what a blessing it is to live in a community with such a learned constituency.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 2:58 pm
  • Jimbo

    Great reporting!

    Mattie – you forgot to include a screed about Agenda 21. I have not seen one of those in awhile and could use a reminder of the threat it poses to our freedoms and less-fantastic conspiracy theories. Pizzagate, vaccines, Obama birtherism, mass shooting actors, . . .

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 4:46 pm
  • oliver blackwell

    oliver blackwell

    just read this, and what we need, is people like this young man from Va,Delegate Nick Freitas gives a moving speech on the House Floor. Does mind offending other people to get his point across.
    http://blackieblackwell.com/media/openandhonestdebate.mp4

    Tuesday, Mar 6 @ 6:34 am

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 6:01 pm
  • Greg

    The bottom line is that Bil Cook is a lobbyist posing as a legislator Ms Boswell would do well to not follow his bad example The gop majority in Raleigh is a Corporate lobbying organization as it relates to our environment.

    Wednesday, Mar 7 @ 11:48 pm
  • OBXLOVER

    It appears Bill Cook was not as smart as he seems. He would let a kid run the Dare County Republican Party. I do think Bev Boswell is going to have a hard time against Tess in the general election. She caught a Trump wave two years ago and won’t have that going for her this year. Really like the new guy running against her.

    Thursday, Mar 8 @ 5:17 am
  • Guwondering

    So much trouble for bill, big Rick, ed and bev. It sounds like trouble in paradise.

    Saturday, Mar 10 @ 12:03 am
  • dave

    Hey Dano….its “their”. No, we need to keep the Real News so the backward “thinking” reactionary conservatives don’t gas light us into 1933.

    Sunday, Mar 11 @ 3:00 pm
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