Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jack Hawke Dies at 72 -- slayed liberal dragons, helped build modern NC GOP.

Jack Hawke, picture from jwpcivitasinstitute.org.

Jack Hawke -- A cheerful political warrior who loved the game

N&O Online  November 4, 2013

— Jack Hawke, the veteran political strategist who helped build the modern North Carolina Republican Party, died Monday night after an extended illness.
Hawke, who was 72, was the leading architect of the campaign for GOP Gov Pat McCrory, and for previous Republican governor Jim Martin, as well. He also played an important role in countless other Republican campaigns. He was particularly close to former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner, a three-time candidate for governor.

A cheerful political warrior who loved the game, Hawke was state Republican Party chairman from 1987-95, which was believed to make him the longest serving chairman in state history.

He also ran for Congress in 1968, losing a close race. More recently, he served as president of the Civitas Institute, a conservative advocacy group in Raleigh.


 By Verne Strickland   November 5, 2013 

Jack Hawke has died. It grieves me to acknowledge this, because Jack was not only respected and appreciated for his abilities in grooming GOP political talent for high office -- he was also a genuinely likeable man. 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/11/04/3342175/political-strategist-former-state.html#storylink=cpyJack Hawke has died. It saddens me to acknowledge this, as he was not only a Republican with deep conservative roots, but a genuinely nice guy as weI knew him during his early years as a gifted GOP political strategist in Raleigh. He was a dedicated. conservative when conservatism wasn't cool.
Jack was tough as nails, knew how to cut the fat out of a liberal Democrat's stump speech, and confounded opposing political strategists he met in the bare-knuckle, high-stakes North Carolina political arena. And when the fat was gone, Jack made sure the rest of the claims made looked like mince meat.

In those days, Jack looked like a good-natured choir boy. But his youthful appearance belied the fact that he was endowed with fangs that could take down some of the most entrenched and revered Democratic hot shots of the day.

I was an agricultural reporter at WRAL-TV in Raleigh when Hawke burst onto the scene. My farm connections gave me an insider's view of the first dragon that Jack Hawke slew -- the pompous, excessively incumbent chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee -- Harold D. Cooley of Nashville, NC.

Which brings me to a point that I am obliged to make early in this essay on a man who was a talented player in North Carolina politics for decades. And that point is -- you can't discuss the Jack Hawke legacy without mentioning the first rising political star he expertly groomed and propelled into high office -- Jim Gardner.

To pick up the narrative here, I'm going to reluctantly hand the baton to Gary Pearce, former poster boy for Democrats salivating to gain high office in North Carolina. Pearce was also a talented strategist, always rode Democrat horses, and rarely lost a race. But when he did lose, it was a calamity for him, and shook the North Carolina Democratic Party to its roots. Pearce had failed to take home the prize in the epic "Battle for the Soul of North Carolina" between Jim Hunt and incumbent U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.

The following few paragraphs are excerpted from Pearce's ascerbic report on the life and death of Jack Hawke. This little essay he entitles "Diamond Jim Gardner", a disrespectful reference to the man whose audacious win over kingpin Harold Cooley handily dismembered a Democratic dynasty in Washington.


Jim Gardner almost changed political history twice – 20 years ago and 40 years ago.
In 1972, he was the fair-haired boy of the North Carolina Republican Party. Six years earlier, he had unexpectedly defeated a long-time Democratic congressman from the East, Harold Cooley. How big an upset was it? Cooley was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, for Pete’s sake. Eastern North Carolina hadn’t elected a Republican congressman since Reconstruction. And Gardner was barely 30 years old.
Gardner had been one of the early founders of Hardee’s out of Rocky Mount. He was handsome and a hell of a speaker. He caught the early Republican wave in 1966 and rode it to Washington. Gardner was a fire-and-brimstone conservative. He knew all the racial code words, like “law and order,” “forced busing” and welfare.
He was Jesse Helms before Jesse Helms.
But one term in Congress was enough for Gardner. In 1968, he ran for Governor and nearly beat Bob Scott. He immediately started running for 1972.
Then he ran into a quiet, more traditional Republican from the mountains, state Rep. Jim Holshouser. Holshouser edged Gardner in the Republican primary. So it was Holshouser, not Gardner, who rode the Nixon landslide into the Governor’s office in 1972 – the same year Helms was elected to the Senate.
Gardner went back to the business world, full of high-flying plans. But they crashed in the Nixon recession and gas shortages of the 1970s. He fell into a string of bankruptcies, bad debts and business failures that would plague him later.
He stayed out of politics until 1988, when Republicans recruited him to run for Lieutenant Governor. Governor Jim Martin was sweeping to reelection that year, and once again Gardner was at the right place and the right time. He destroyed Tony Rand, his Democratic opponent, in a debate. And he began planning another run for governor in 1992.
Then he ran into Jim Hunt.  Hunt was coming back into politics in large part because Democrats feared Gardner. They fought a bruising campaign. We (I was working with Hunt’s campaign) pounded Gardner with his business record. Hunt asked him in a debate: “If that’s how you run your business, I’d hate to see how you’d run the state.” Hunt won big.
Now Gardner is back. He was front and center when Governor McCrory named his transition team. Gardner’s old strategist, Jack Hawke, played the same role with McCrory. And now McCrory has picked Gardner to be ABC Chairman.
You wouldn’t think it’s possible to bankrupt the state’s liquor system. But Gardner has quite a track record. (VS: Very snide, Mr. Pearce. But certainly not beneath you.)

The following is a comment from a writer challenging Pearce's essay (above) on Jack Hawke, Jim Gardner, and other GOP leaders whom Hawke successfully groomed for office:

"Gardner was a successful businessman. No one in business has total success, but Gardner weathered the storms and survived. I'm curious why you're so worried about a lowly chairmanship like ABC Chairman. Just fodder to trash a republican, I guess. Lovely. More...a chance to trash McCrory. It's the order of the day for you, Gary. You're watching McCrory and every other republican politician here in NC to find whatever you can to post negatives about them. I guess it's just what you do. I guess it will make you look even more "democrat" so that you can realize more paid gigs help democrats in their quest to win elections and sway public opinion here in our fair state. Okay...fine. I applaud that you actually work for a living and pay taxes.

"But, when ya do it on your blog here, I'm here to call you out. Not sure just how many democrats read/peruse TAP. But, hopefully they see Dap's posts and at least consider what I say about your Front Page posts here. We've got a lot of republicans/conservatives here in NC. We don't have a huge "immigrant" population that votes here and we have a great many conservative African American residents here. If that wasn't true, Jesse would have had a much tougher time in his many, many terms as U.S. Senator."