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  • Carolina Journal Staff

NCGOP executive director Jason Simmons announces run for chair, Sen. Budd endorses

Late last week the Republican National Committee (RNC) accepted the resignation of chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and subsequently elected Michael Whatley, current chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, to lead the GOP into the 2024 elections.

It is a boon for North Carolina Republicans, whose success has clearly been recognized on the national stage; but what does Whatley’s departure mean for future leadership at the NCGOP?

Whatley made his plans official on Monday, sending party members a letter stating his intentions to resign, and calling for an executive committee meeting on March 26, in which the committee will elect a new chair to finish his term.

“I am proud to announce that I have been unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and will be stepping into that role this week,” wrote Whatley. “[…] After prayerful consideration and  conversations with my family, President Trump and his campaign and many of our Republican candidates and leaders, I have decided to step down as the NCGOP Chairman. I feel that it is important for us to have a Chair who can focus solely on winning the critical races up and down the ballot in North Carolina, work closely with President Trump and his campaign and continue to work daily with all of our county and district parties, auxiliary groups and Republican Candidates.”

So, with former President Donald Trump personally tapping Whatley to lead the RNC, what becomes of the leadership for the Republican Party of North Carolina?

That question may have been answered later Monday evening as Jason Simmons, NCGOP’s executive director, announced to executive committee members his intentions to run for chair of the North Carolina Republican Party.

“Given our success in North Carolina, it’s understandable President Trump has tapped Chairman Whatley for a larger role in 2024,” Simmons expressed in his letter to committee members. “I whole-heartedly congratulate Michael on his new position as Chairman of the RNC. Our loss is the country’s gain. With Chairman Whatley’s announcement that he intends to resign and focus on his new role as Chairman of the RNC, I am writing to announce my candidacy for NCGOP Chairman. I would greatly appreciate your support.

Jason Simmons currently serves as executive director of the NCGOP, a position he’s held since February 2021. Prior to running day-to-day operations at the NCGOP, Simmons served as regional field director for the RNC, and served in the Trump administration prior to that.

North Carolina is a critical battleground state in the 2024 presidential elections and one would expect the Trump campaign has an interest in continuity at one of the nation’s most successful state party organizations.

After nearly three years as executive director, Simmons is obviously a known entity to the NCGOP executive committee and party activists across the state. He is also held in high regard by elected Republicans, US Sen. Ted Budd in particular, who is endorsing Simmons in his run for chair.

“I endorse Jason Simmons for NCGOP Chairman because Jason has a proven track record of helping President Trump and North Carolina Republicans win,” Budd said in a statement shared with Carolina Journal. “Jason led Donald Trump’s winning North Carolina campaign in 2016 and as our Executive Director under Chairman Whatley, has been a huge asset for helping North Carolina Republicans win. Once we won the primary, my team was able to seamlessly integrate with the NCGOP grassroots outreach and GOTV operations. And on Election Day, I had full confidence that the Election Day Operations plans put in place by Chairman Whatley and Jason Simmons would protect our ballot integrity. Jason Simmons knows and appreciates how important the grassroots are to winning on Election Day and he has my full support for NCGOP Chairman.”

An Army veteran, Simmons tenure has been marked by fluid execution and plenty of Republican victories, a trend Trump hopes he continues this fall. As Budd mentioned, Simmons is a known entity for Trump, too.

After serving in the administration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, Simmons joined Trump’s first presidential campaign in July 2016 as North Carolina State Director. Trump won the Tar Heel State that November, of course, and Simmons was then tapped as a senior White House advisor, and chief of staff for the US Office of Personnel Management. Finally, Simmons served as associate administrator for the US Small Business Administration before returning to party politics at the RNC and, eventually, NCGOP.

Republicans that have worked with Simmons in the past say he’s just the man for the job. Russell Peck — GOP strategist, former NCGOP executive director, former RNC political director, and manager for Gov. Pat McCrory’s successful 2012 campaign — has worked with him in various roles over the last decade.

“Jason Simmons has strengthened every organization or campaign that he has been involved in and I have complete confidence that he will do a fantastic job representing the NCGOP as Chairman,” Peck told Carolina Journal. “I’ve had the privilege of working with him in various roles for over a decade and have no doubt that he will bring his dedication and grit to ensuring the NCGOP supports candidates up and down the ticket in every way possible. Jason is just the kind of no-nonsense fighter the NCGOP needs right now.”

With Simmons’ resume, and Trump’s personal recruitment of Whatley for RNC chair, there may be more than just Budd’s backing in his race for NCGOP chair.

The 2024 election cycle will arguably be the biggest for the NCGOP during Simmons’ tenure at the state party, whether as executive director or possibly chair. Presidential and gubernatorial elections will be complemented by a full slate of congressional races on new district maps, all the statewide Council of State races, state legislative contests, and a high profile race for North Carolina Supreme Court.

The next meeting of the NCGOP executive committee, in which they’ll officially select their new chair, will be held March 26.

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