It wasn’t until the addition of Sarah Palin to the Republican Presidential ticket in 2008 that Rhonda Amoroso’s desire to create political change in the Cape Fear region re-ignited.
Several years later, the New Hanover County Republican Party re-elected Rhonda Amoroso to a second two-year term as Party Chair. Then, almost immediately, Governor Pat McCrory appointed her to the State Board of Elections.
According to state statute, Amoroso will have to step down from her County position, and the local GOP will select a new Chair.
In the meantime, her passion for election law reform will be put to work at the State level. The self-described conservative is championing changes to election laws in the state – particularly the new voter ID legislation.
Detractors of such laws say that not only does a photo ID fail to address absentee ballots as the real source of voter fraud, it also disenfranchises thousands of registered voters who are very old, very young, or living in rural areas without a nearby DMV.
But Rhonda Amoroso argues that her time in charge of elections operations for the County GOP has proven to her that a photo ID requirement would be an improvement for everyone.
“I saw a lot of things that were troublesome to me – just the way the elections were run, incidents of voter irregularities and all of that stuff. And it is out there. You see people showing up and voting more than once. And there’s been very little if no enforcement on voter infractions… I mean any where – you go into the department store. You have to show an ID if you’re using a credit card. So to me – that’s a no-brainer. I think what it’ll do is it’ll suppress voter fraud.”
Amoroso cites a recent poll that found 80% of North Carolinians approve of having to show an ID in order to vote. And while there continue to be conflicting studies on the actual impact of voter ID laws – with some Democrats calling the laws “voter suppression”, Amoroso points to one study of Georgia election law that claimed a higher turnout among minority voters after a photo ID law was passed.
Amoroso says she expects the next Chairperson of the County GOP, who has not yet been selected, to carry out the basic mission of the County Republican Party.
RLH: What changes would you like to see happen over the next two years?
RA: My main goal really is to recruit and get Republican candidates elected to office. The next thing up we have is the City elections – City Council. Filing is in July. As you know the demographics in the City do not favor the Republicans. Right now we have one lone guy on there, so it’s tough. But we are trying to recruit professional types, credible, qualified, competent people.
RLH: Tax reform is a huge item on the agenda for legislators in Raleigh. And there are clearly-divided allegiances. [Coastal area leaders desperately want to keep film incentives; but many GOP legislators from other parts of the state don’t see them as distinct from corporate packages that pick winners and losers.] Where do you stand on film incentives?
RA: I don’t have a strong position on that. My issue comes down to this: if Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the rest of the country is currently using incentives, you’re not on a level playing field if you say ‘No, we can’t do that at all.’
RLH: The other components of tax reform under discussion include doing away with personal and corporate state income tax. That revenue could then be filled with consumption taxes on some goods and services not currently taxed. Is there a particular way that you’d like to see it go?
RA: Taxing services that haven’t been taxed before… yeah, I have an issue with some of those usage taxes. You know when you’re living in the northeast or California, the tax rates just crush businesses. And a lot of folks are fleeing California and going to Texas that has no state income tax as does Florida. I think if we kind of move towards that, you would see companies, instead of going to South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, our neighbors, they may come here to North Carolina to relocate their business here.
RLH: Locally, we have a peculiar issue at the county level. New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger has been formally asked by his fellow commissioners to resign twice. The Board has finally taken control of the situation by filing an amotion to oust Berger. Is the Republican Party positioning itself for when that situation shifts and how are you doing that?
RA: Well, we’ve been positioning for, I don’t know, two years now – and Mr. Berger has been a distraction for quite some time. When I first became party chair, I resurrected what we call the Leadership Development Committee. And that committee is responsible for recruiting candidates and among other things filling a vacancy should it arise.
RLH: And do we know any more at this point about the amotion process? It’s a rather arcane device – typically used in corporate situations not governmental ones…will it be effective? Will there be an appointee to take his spot if it is effective? Or a special election?
RA: Well, I haven’t seen this process play out. I think it could get tied up in the courts for a year and a half. And by that point, Mr. Berger’s term would be over… But I have a feeling Mr. Berger will probably retain counsel if he hasn’t already and fight this.
RLH: Economic development has been a big issue for the Cape Fear Region. What’s the best way to go about that? Does the County GOP have a clearly-defined strategy?
RA: In terms of the economic landscape, coming from where I come from, I think we need to something… you have to decide – do you want to be a tourist spot that has a beach area – or do you want to have a vibrant economy? Do I have the answer on it? No. But I can tell you that I don’t think my children will come back and find good quality jobs here today or tomorrow.
RLH: Does the county party have a position on whether a Titan Cement plant should set up shop here?
RA: There are folks that are for it and folks that are against Titan. I have not seen any raw data. So personally I can’t comment on whether they would comply with the Clean Air Act requirements. So that needs to be pursued further I believe. But as I say there are people that want to bring Titan. They want to see the jobs come here. And there are folks that are anti-any development because of pollution issues.
RLH: Any final thoughts?
RA: I think if people are unhappy with what’s going on in government… you need to get off the couch and get away from your TV… You need to get involved and make a difference. Show up and start to learn about the issues.
RLH: Rhonda Amoroso, thanks so much for joining us today.
RA: Thank you, Rachel.