ROCKINGHAM — With local, state and presidential elections soon approaching, GOP leaders in Richmond County needed a headquarters and chairman Jerry Austin said Wednesday they’ve found one.
A soft opening will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Republican Party’s new space at 304 E. Washington St. across from Food King in downtown Rockingham. Austin said they hope to have an official grand opening in the next couple of weeks, but wanted to make sure they had a headquarters with a central location and lots of traffic.
“Our headquarters in 2012 was downtown, and we were looking for something downtown, too,” he said. “We wanted to follow the precedents that the Republicans did in 2012 elections.”
The building will serve as a place for local GOP members to come together, receive yard signs and get information on issues that are going on.
One of those issues Austin talked about on Wednesday was a disparaging lack of Republican voters in Richmond County. Something he said seems misrepresented by Board of Elections numbers.
“We’re trying to get the word out that we’re a conservative party. Most people in Richmond County seem to be conservative,” he said. “The registration numbers are skewed a bit. People have always registered Democrat like their parents and their grandparents.”
Austin added that for the longest time, there were never any Republican candidates running for local elected offices and this caused residents to automatically register Democrat.
“Ben Moss is the first Republican County Commissioner that I can remember we’ve ever had,” he said.
Moss, along with Norman Town Council member Stephen Cranford and State Senator Tom McInnis, are the only Republicans to currently hold elected offices, according to Richmond County Elections Director Connie Kelly.
McInnis and County Commissioner candidate Donnie Richardson are the only two Republican candidates running in this year’s elections.
Austin said because of the larger number of Democratic voters, GOP candidates don’t think they have a chance of winning.
According to Kelly, the total voter turnout for Republicans was 17 percent in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
In 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 13,870 to 3,248 and in 2012 the numbers stayed around the same level with Dems dropping to 13,250 but still ahead of 3,350 GOP members.
Based on precinct-to-precinct figures, Rockingham No. 2 and Marks Creek No. 2 were the only two that saw more than 1,000 Republicans vote. Meanwhile, five precincts — Rockingham No. 1 and 2, Wolf Pit No. 1 and Marks Creek No. 1 and 2 — each boasted more than 1,000 Democratic voters.
Regardless of the numbers, Austin said the party is in the process of setting up the grand opening of the new headquarters and is trying to line up a candidate list.
Said Austin, “We wanna have the office open cause we’ve been getting calls after calls on where they can get candidate signs and all that kind of stuff.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.