Chris Anglin arrived at a Charlotte community center just after 11:00 a.m. on March 16. Like other Republican politicians, Anglin, a candidate in the Ninth Congressional District primary, wanted to make his pitch to the MeckGOP County Convention.
But John Steward, who chairs the GOP’s Ninth District Executive Committee, wouldn’t let him in. Anglin was an hour late, Steward told him—and the MeckGOP’s website was clear that doors closed at ten sharp. They wouldn’t even have allowed Thom Tillis in at this point.
Anglin didn’t buy it. To him, this was just another example of the North Carolina Republican Party locking him out.
“They’ve done everything they can in order to hinder me at every step,” Anglin says.
That much is true. Indeed, the party’s been quite open about it. NCGOP officials believe Anglin’s a fraud—a fake Republican making a mockery of their party. So they cut off his access to Republican events, voter rolls, and other party resources.
Now, Anglin says he might sue.
“I think what they are doing is illegal in the sense that I’m a member of the organization and they are not following their party rules,” Anglin says. “So I could bring a court action against them. I’m considering it right now. That’s not an empty threat.”
It wouldn’t be the first time he took GOP officials to court.
Last year, the Raleigh attorney switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican just weeks before filing to run for the state Supreme Court. Republicans viewed his candidacy as an attempt to siphon votes from incumbent Republican Barbara Jackson and hand the election to Democrat Anita Earls.
The General Assembly had recently made Supreme Court races partisan and canceled judicial primaries; whoever got the most votes in November would win. With two Republicans on the ballot, that would almost certainly be Earls.
Republicans quickly passed a law to force Anglin to run with no party affiliation. He sued, arguing that it was unconstitutional to change the rules during an election—and he prevailed. Earls finished just shy of an outright majority, with 49.6 percent of the vote; Anglin received 16 percent.
Republicans weren’t about to forgive and forget.
After the State Board of Elections ordered new elections in the Ninth Congressional District in February—following a razor-close race last year tainted by allegations of election fraud—Anglin announced that he would join a crowded field of ten Republicans vying to challenge Democrat Dan McCready this fall.
The state party wasn’t about to roll out the red carpet for him. And nothing in state law says it had to, says Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the NCGOP.
“The Republican Party doesn’t have to explain to anybody its rules and how it deals with candidates,” Woodhouse says. “We’re not a public organization. We’re a private nonprofit entity, and in the state, anybody can put themselves on a ballot as a Republican, but that doesn’t mean the Republicans have to provide them resources that are raised for privately and funded privately.”
But Anglin—who calls himself a constitutional conservative and says he’s running to stand up for the rule of law, and against President Trump, if need be—points to the NCGOP’s 2018 Plan of Organization, which prohibits any party official from “utilizing the powers and dignity of his or her office or position in any Republican Primary for public office at any level.”
In short, Anglin says he’s entitled to participate in the primary, and party officials aren’t allowed to put their thumbs on the scale. If they keep it up, he might seek a restraining order to stop them.
Woodhouse says Anglin’s not entitled to anything. While there’s not a “particular section for stooges” in the party bylaws, Woodhouse says, the rules grant party chairman Robin Hayes—who was indicted Monday on wire fraud charges as part of a federal corruption probe, and announced he wouldn’t seek reelection to his post—“general supervision” of party affairs.
It was Hayes’s call to banish Anglin, Woodhouse says.
Under state law, the GOP “can exclude anyone they want,” says Gerry Cohen, a longtime state Board of Elections special counsel. “Unless [Anglin’s] lawsuit was based on party rules, the likelihood of succeeding is zero.”
Even a case based on party rules faces a steep legal climb, says Bob Orr, a Republican former state Supreme Court justice. (Orr, a Trump critic, is also regarded as a black sheep in NCGOP circles.)
“I don’t know whether there’s anything in those bylaws that [Anglin] might say they are violating,” Orr says “The courts look for nice, clean-cut answers. I don’t know that that provides [anything] clean-cut.”
Even though the party appears to be on solid legal footing, Orr says the NCGOP made a mistake picking a fight with Anglin. It’s giving attention to a candidate who otherwise wouldn’t have mattered—and who probably didn’t stand a chance among the Ninth District’s conservative Republican primary voters.
“Just like they did in the Barbara Jackson race,” Orr says. “The more the GOP stirs it up, the better they help Chris. If you don’t have any money, you’re looking for free publicity.”
Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss by email at email@example.com, by phone at 919-832-8774, or on Twitter @leightauss.