NC Democrats, GOP hold state conventions

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

North Carolina Democratic and Republican activists are gathering for a weekend of speeches from national and state political notables to rally the party faithful heading into the fall campaigns for U.S. Senate, Congress and the legislature.

The state Republican Party convention was slated to begin Friday at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in the mountains. On Saturday, the state Democratic Party convention precedes its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Raleigh.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and radio show talk host Bill Bennett were slated to address Saturday lunch and dinner crowds at the GOP convention. Jindal and Huckabee are considering 2016 presidential bids.

The expected 1,000 convention attendees also were planning to hear Saturday afternoon from Gov. Pat McCrory and state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who won the party's Senate nomination last month and will challenge Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.

Hagan will address the Jefferson-Jackson crowd of 350, along with Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is building a campaign to run for governor in 2016, probably against McCrory if Cooper wins the nomination. Texas U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is delivering the dinner's keynote address at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Hundreds also will attend the Democrats' convention.

The Hagan-Tillis race should receive the most attention from activists and candidates. Hagan is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats, and Republicans say unseating her is essential to win back control of the chamber. State Democrats are trying to help Hagan win and make inroads in the state's U.S. House delegation and the General Assembly, where they are in the minority.

Candidates for Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court will get some rare attention from both parties. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson, a registered Democrat who advanced in last month's nonpartisan primary despite a blistering TV ad aired against her by an outside group, will address the Democrats' dinner.

The only two candidates running for chief justice are Republican. Current Associate Justice Mark Martin and Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis will speak at the GOP convention Saturday morning, along with other appeals court candidates.

The Republican convention will occur even as current U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr are the featured guests at a Saturday evening reception at a Greensboro home. Six of the nine Republican House members from North Carolina are hosting that event. The requested donations range from $1,000 to $25,000 per couple for the Boehner for Speaker political committee, according to an invitation.

The state GOP is holding its convention for the first time in a hotel right next to the casino operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Many social conservatives oppose gambling. The hotel and casinos are separated by a skywalk.