New GOP leadership|Chairman announces he will step down next month

Published 2:24 am Friday, February 18, 2011

Staff Writer

The chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party said he will step down when his two-year term ends next month.
In a recent interview, Larry Britt confirmed he wouldn’t seek another term as chairman.
A new chairman is expected to be elected at the GOP’s county convention on March 8.
“Purely monetary,” Britt said when asked why he was ending his run as chairman.
“It’s an expensive position,” he said, adding the position doesn’t pay anything and he spends a lot of his own money on travel and other expenses tied to his responsibilities as chairman.
Other factors also are weighing on Britt’s mind.
“It’s a time-consuming position,” he said. “People who have done it for two and three terms – and there have been people who have done it – my hat’s off to them.”
Britt will leave his post after a victorious autumn, when the Republicans — with the aid of sympathetic Democratic and unaffiliated voters — retained their majority on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and helped elevate political newcomer Bill Cook to state House District 6.
Republicans also have seen gains in recent years on the Beaufort County Board of Education, though seats on that board are nonpartisan and party rivalries rarely surface.
With 16,002 registered voters, the Beaufort County Democratic Party still outranks the local GOP’s 9,675 voters in terms of overall registration.
But the Republicans have been making registration gains, and Britt has noted many Democrats — and quite a few of the county’s 6,143 unaffiliated voters — have been persuaded to vote for GOP candidates.
“I had two goals, and that was to try to maintain as much unity as possible going into the elections, and I think we did that,” Britt commented. “Also was to kind of improve the name of Republicans in Beaufort County, and I think we got the word out a bit.”
Though Britt asserts he was able to maintain party unity through last year’s general election, there have been bumps along the way.
Before the start of a Feb. 7 meeting of the Beaufort County commissioners, GOP board member Hood Richardson openly criticized the party establishment led by Britt, saying GOP leaders were trying to tell him how to vote on issues, including the debated future of Beaufort Regional Health System.
“The Democratic Party has treated me better than the Republican Party,” Richardson said.
Britt disagreed publicly with Richardson over which suitor BRHS should choose to lead the medical system.
For this, Britt was criticized by some Richardson supporters, but the outgoing chairman doesn’t think that disagreement signifies a lingering divide within the party.
“I certainly haven’t heard anything leaning in that direction,” Britt said. “That’s not people against the party, that’s just people against anybody who’s against Hood. … I often hear about the split in the Republican Party, and I don’t see that as a split in the party. It’s Hood and his supporters against all other Republicans.”
Buzz Cayton is a Richardson supporter and Beaufort Patriot Tea Party chairman who sees things differently.
“That’s a case of airing dirty laundry to the public, and it’s something that probably just didn’t need to be done,” Cayton said of Britt’s recent remarks to the Down East Republicans, a group that doesn’t support Richardson.
Republican disagreements over the BRHS issue likely will come up in the 2012 election, not in the county convention, Cayton predicted.
“I don’t think the hospital will have anything to do with the convention,” he said. “That’s pretty much past.”
Britt’s words aside, Cayton had good things to say about his local party organization.
“I think everybody can always say you could always make improvements,” Cayton commented. “I think the party has made some giant strides forward. I think they’re staying on a good, steady, conservative course, which seems to be where people want to go right now.”
Contributing Writer Betty Mitchell Gray contributed to this article.