Fetzer resigns as State GOP chairman

North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer (Photo courtesy TomFetzer.com)
November 20, 2010 2:14:24 PM PST
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said Saturday he's stepping down from his post five months early, citing family and financial reasons following a successful election cycle for the state GOP that led to historic electoral and fundraising gains. Fetzer announced to the Republican Party's Central Committee on Saturday morning his decision to resign effective Jan. 15. The party's Executive Committee will meet on that date to choose a successor, through the annual GOP convention in June. The temporary chairman could run for another two-year term.

He said the party met its three major goals during his time as chairman -- winning majorities in the House and Senate together for the first time in more than a century, elect Judge Barbara Jackson to keep a majority of Republicans on the state Supreme Court, and re-elect U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, one of Fetzer's closest friends.

"We had a good year and I was fortunate enough to be at the helm when we had a good year," Fetzer told The Associated Press in an interview. "The party's in very good fiscal shape. It'll be in good shape for the next chairman coming in."

Fetzer, a former Raleigh mayor and political consultant whose clients included Elizabeth Dole, was elected chairman in June 2009. He said he had told GOP leaders in recent months he wouldn't seek a second term but said Saturday he wanted to speed up his departure in part due to his family. Fetzer got married last year and had a son in July. He's been on the road almost continuously in recent months and raising money for the party and candidates.

He joked his wife wanted him to have "less stressful, more lucrative employment."

Fetzer, 55, is widely credited with bringing a higher level of professionalism to the state GOP and beefing up its fundraising after several election cycles in which Democrats routinely outspent Republicans by at least 2-to-1. The state party raised $3.3 million between July 1 and mid-October, more than double the amount raised two years ago.

Fetzer also has been the chief critic of Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration, filing election law complaints against her campaign for unreported private flights. He also filed a complaint that led to Perdue, Senate leader Marc Basnight and others returning more than $100,000 contributed illegally to their campaigns from a Wilmington businessman.

"I appreciate the great job that Chairman Fetzer has done raising money and assisting with candidate recruitment," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who is also a member of the Republican National Committee. "He's certainly been the best message bearer that we've had in a long time."

Fetzer said he has no firm plans about his future but said he's not going to run for public office himself.

"I've made no decisions about anything that I'm going to do," he said.

Meanwhile, in a busy day for Republicans on the state level, Rep. Thom Tillis was chosen to become the next speaker of the North Carolina House.

The House GOP caucus meeting Saturday afternoon in Raleigh chose the Mecklenburg County lawmaker by secret ballot during a closed-door meeting. The vote results weren't immediately released, but House member Mitchell Setzer confirmed Tillis' victory.

Since Republicans are in the clear majority, Tillis is all but assured to win election when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Current Minority Leader Paul Stam of Apex and Reps. Ric Killian of Charlotte and Mitch Gillespie of Marion also were running.

Tillis is a former business consultant who was elected this month to his third term in the House.

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