Rucho calls for party investigation into Mecklenburg GOP chairma - | WBTV Charlotte

Rucho calls for party investigation into Mecklenburg GOP chairman

State Senator Bob Rucho State Senator Bob Rucho
House Majority Leader Mike Hager House Majority Leader Mike Hager

State Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) is calling for party officials to investigate the chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party.

Rucho made the request in a letter to state and county party officials on Sunday after revelations that chairman Curtis Watkins had made attempts to recruit a primary challenger against House Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford).

In addition to being the majority leader, Hager is also a leader among the conservative faction of the House Republican caucus and a staunch opponent of efforts to subsidize the solar energy industry.

Watkins, an executive with a professional background in energy, has made it known he disagrees with Hager’s stance on solar power.

Rucho’s letter accuses Watkins of violating party rules regarding recruitment of candidates.

“Mr. Watkins admitted to me that he had, in fact, made a telephone call to an individual in Rutherford County regarding a potential primary in House District 112, which is currently held by House Majority Leader Mike Hager who has already announced that he is running for re-election,” Rucho wrote. “I also understood Mr. Watkins to say that he had made similar calls to individuals in other counties as part of his personal employment duties.”

Rucho also questioned Watkins’ focus on finding primary challengers for Republican candidates outside of Mecklenburg county when other races inside the county currently do not have Republican candidates.

“Both the Mecklenburg County and North Carolina Republican Party plans of organization prohibit members of their executive committee like Mr. Watkins from using the powers and dignity of their offices in any Republican Primary for public office at any level,” Rucho wrote.

READ: Letter from Sen. Bob Rucho calling for investigation

In a call with On Your Side Investigates early Monday afternoon, Watkins said he had not seen a copy of the letter and could not respond to the specifics but said, in general, there has been some misinformation spread about the situation.

“It’s unfortunate that rather than having a frank and open and honest discussion about this, the tactic has been to take everything to the media,” Watkins said. 

Watkins said he planned to address the misinformation and tell the other half of the story that’s not been published. He said he does not have any personal stake in the personal industry in North Carolina.

“I haven’t had a conversation with Rep. Hager,” Watkins said. “He hasn’t bothered to reach out to me.”

Watkins said he passed his contact information to a mutual contact he shared with Hager but had not hear from him.

On Monday, Hager told On Your Side Investigates he didn’t feel the need to call Watkins.

“I’m playing defense here,” Hager said. Like Rucho, Hager said Watkins’ attempts to recruit primary challengers would be a violation of party rules.

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