New executive board elected at Saturday meeting
A mix of new and familiar faces will lead the Union County Republican Party in 2011. Party members elected a new executive board during their yearly convention, held Saturday, March 5. Weddington ‘s John Steward will take over as chairman, after beating Stallings resident Louis Philippi by a vote of 94 to 83. Waxhaw’s Frank Aikmus won the election for vice chair by a vote of 72 to 60 over Monroe resident Jerry Cross. Chris Duggan ran unopposed for Party treasurer, while Hudson Barton was unopposed for secretary.
“I look forward to working with the new party officers as we prepare for this election cycle,” Steward said. “We have many important races coming up, starting with the (town) races this year. We will also have two new N.C. House seats after the redistricting is finished, as well as the statewide and presidential races.”
Steward, who served as vice chair during the previous two years, takes over the top seat from Jim Bention, who declined to run for another term. Steward, who has worked in the party for the past 10 years, also served as the Union County chairman for Sen. Richard Burr’s re-election campaign, along with serving as the 9th district vice chair for the state’s Republican Central Committee.
“I am delighted that the voting delegates had the confidence in me to elect me Vice Chair,” Aikmus said. “I am hopeful that as a party, we can strengthen our base of faithful conservative voters and at the same time bring in fresh faces.”
The election leaves Steward as the only returning member of an executive board that came under fire last year for questions related to finances. After an internal audit report was released questioning financial management, the State Bureau of Investigation and state Board of Elections opened investigations.
During the Lincoln-Reagan Day event, the audit committee reported that Steward paid $400 for the night’s band out of cash received that evening, due to the fact then-treasurer Elizabeth Cooke had left for the night.
Steward told audit committee members he obtained the funds from the evening’s gun drawing and front door ticket sales. Stating that the treasurer had left, he indicated that after paying the band, he deposited the remaining $160 into his personal account. Later on, Steward gave a personal check for the amount to Cooke and provided that receipt to the committee.
The audit committee’s report shows that Steward couldn’t have deposited the funds to the party’s account, as only Cooke and former party chair Joe Pomykacz had access, since they were the only two names listed on the account. Additionally, Cooke said at the time she didn’t have a debit card to share for the account.
The Board of Elections investigation had found no evidence of wrongdoing, campaign finance office director Kim Strach said.
“The investigation is ongoing, but no evidence of criminal conduct has been found,” Strach said.
Strach said however she couldn’t give a timeline when the state would be finished and release a report.
Looking forward, Steward and Aikmus said they were focused on helping Republicans win local, state and national elections over the next two years.
“Union County played an important role in the Republicans winning several key elections in 2010, and we will are preparing to duplicate our efforts for 2012,” Steward said. “We will help Republicans return our government at every level to conservative, constitutional roles.”
Aikmus echoed those sentiments, saying the group has a lot of work to do.
“There is a lot of work to be done and we must hold our conservative elected officials accountable, not only in Union County but across the state and nation, to what we put them there to do.”