Chad Nesbitt is no stranger to bare-knuckle political sparring. The Carolina Stompers, the conservative activist group he founded in 2007, has perfected the art of brash campaigning for candidates and causes.
Now, however, Nesbitt has ceded his position as lead Stomper to his friend Harry Maroni. On March 28, the Buncombe County Republican Party elected Nesbitt its chair after a speech in which he laid out an ambitious plan to raise major campaign dollars and attract new party members via a team of seven outreach committees focused on matters ranging from education to the military to religion.
This year, the party's candidates will be challenging such relatively entrenched Democrats as U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler and state Sen. Martin Nesbitt (Chad's stepfather). Nonetheless, the Stomper-turned-party-chair forecasts a string of local GOP victories. "Any race that is lost, I will consider my fault," he declares, adding, "Every race will be won."
Xpress met with Nesbitt recently to talk about these and other matters. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Mountain Xpress: How long have you thought about being involved in leading the party at the county level?
Chad Nesbitt: Well, I was asked to run by members of the Executive Committee. … Also, a lot of people from the Tea Party asked me to run, so I did.
When you made your speech before the vote at the convention, you said the Executive Committee had sought you out because you're a "street-fighting promoter." What does that mean to you?
Someone who, instead of just talking about it, actually does something about it.
You also said you're going to bring some marketing and strategic skills to the table. What are some of the initiatives you're planning?
One of the biggest things I want to do is reach out to everybody: That's something that hasn't been done in a long time in the B.C. GOP.
And you announced at the convention that you're planning a fundraising telethon for the party.
It'll probably be the biggest fundraiser I've ever done, and I've done a lot. It will be on Charter Cable 10, and we'll run reruns of it. We've got some big-name celebrities lined up; I can't tell you who they are right now, but they're huge political figures. We'll show segments of what we feel is socialistic terrorism from the Democratic Party and our solutions to it.
We'll have average people there too, asking them what they think, and our candidates and our volunteers. My goal is to make us $250,000 to $300,000 for the Buncombe County GOP.
This year brings some interesting local contests. Your stepfather, state Sen. Martin Nesbitt, is seeking re-election, and you'll be actively pitted against him. What's that like for you?
Martin and I have been pitted against each other for years, and a lot of that is on a personal basis. Frankly, if he loses the election it will be a good thing, because the North Carolina Democratic Party is so corrupt, we'll probably keep him out of jail. … So we might do him a favor when he loses the election.
You're stressing the importance of the party reaching out to all kinds of people, but I noticed that you said your Faith Committee's "sole purpose is to preserve Christian values and American traditions." How far does that go? Are Jewish members welcome in the Buncombe GOP, or Muslim members, etc.?
We, as Republicans, most of us do have Christian values, and we're attacked so many times, over and over again by the Democratic Party, because of our Christian values, our family values. So I stand by it, but I think what's more important is that we all believe in God, be it Jewish, Muslim, whatever.
OK, how about an atheist Republican? Would they be welcome?
A gay Republican?
Sure, absolutely. … A big misconception about me is that I have it out for gays, and that's not true. I think whatever two people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is their own business, and I've always thought that. What really pisses me off is if you see someone bully someone because they may be effeminate or they may be too butch. The Carolina Stompers would support anybody who is being bullied. But we feel like we're being bullied: when you're pushing your sexual lifestyle on people, that's what we've got a problem with.
Do you think the Stompers will stay active without you at the helm?
Absolutely; Harry will do a good job. He's a quick wit, and he's good at finding good stories out there that support our cause.
Some of your progressive critics have said that your ascension to the party chairmanship is a boon for them. One wrote on the Xpress Web site: "This is truly great news for Democrats and third-party candidates. … Democrats should be dancing in the streets over this news." What do you say to that?
It tells me that they're running scared. You know me: I like to stir it up with these guys and poke fun at the liberals, but I laugh at it.
Some say you take the political brawling too far. When progressive activist Cecil Bothwell was elected to Asheville City Council, you wrote online, "Dear God, may Mister Bothwell please receive syphilis."
That's taken out of context: It was a parody … that I did as a comedy stunt.
For the record, then, do you hope Bothwell will contract syphilis?
No, I do not. I wouldn't wish that on anybody [laughs].
And what do you say to critics who say you're too militant?
Look out: It's coming. … We're going to change the face of Buncombe County politics with this administration.
Jon Elliston can be reached at email@example.com or at 251-1333, ext. 127.