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GOP allows proportional delegates in presidential primary

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republicans have decided against awarding all of the party’s pledged delegates to the top vote-getter in the state’s presidential primary in mid-March, even as a bill on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk strongly suggests they use the winner-take-all format.

Republican activists meeting over the weekend in Greensboro approved presidential primary rules that would award 69 state GOP delegates proportionally according to the amount of the vote candidates receive, several party officials said Sunday. Another three at-large delegates — the party chairman and two Republican National Committee members — still get to decide whom they will support, according to state Rep. David Lewis, who attended the Greensboro meeting and is an RNC member.

Saturday’s decision by the party Executive Committee, comprised of hundreds of members, came the same day the smaller Central Committee agreed longtime North Carolina conservative advocate Dallas Woodhouse should become the party’s executive director. Party spokesman Ricky Diaz confirmed the committee’s decision on Woodhouse but cautioned that no formal job offer had yet been made.

A bill given final General Assembly approval late last week shifted the presidential primary date from late February to March 15 to keep Democrats and Republicans from running afoul of national party calendar rules that would have led to the reduction in the size of North Carolina’s delegation and clout in choosing their nominees at the convention.

The bill also directs the presidential contests needed to be winner-take-all, but gives the state party an out should that winner-take-all directive run counter to party rules. Democrats already require proportionaldistribution of delegates. The state GOP had to tell the national party by later this week about theirpresidential primary details.

Some Republicans in charge of the legislature argued awarding all the delegates to one candidate would make the state more attractive to candidates on a date when four other states are holding primaries. But the Executive Committee decided to keep with proportional distribution model, which the state GOP also has used in previous cycles.

Woodhouse, a former local television news journalist, was previously state director for Americans for Prosperity as Republicans ascended to the top of state government earlier this decade. He recently has been head of Carolina Rising, which has run television ads promoting GOP policies by the legislature and McCrory.

Woodhouse said he was recruited for the job “because I have a long history working with grassroots as well as working with the elected officials and donors.”

“The timing is perfect because the natural constitutionally healthy tensions that exist during legislative sessions, party transitions are ending and political work of winning in 2016 is beginning,” he said by text. “I am excited for this challenging and rewarding opportunity.”

Previous executive director Todd Poole left last month and is now the chief of staff to North Carolina U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson. In June, party activists elected new state party Chairman Hasan Harnett over the candidate of the party’s top elected leaders.

Officials at party headquarters came to loggerheads with legislative leaders last week over the primary bill, which also moves all non-presidential contests to March 15. An unsigned message from a state GOP email blasted lawmakers for adding a provision that would allow legislative leaders to create their own caucus campaign committees that would bypass the state parties.

McCrory can sign the bill into law, let it become law without his signature or veto it.

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