GLENDALE SPRINGS — State elected officials, candidates, leaders of the Republican parties for Ashe and Watauga counties and more than 300 voters attended the High Country Patriot Event Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Blue Ridge Theater.
Notable guests in attendance during the event included Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock), U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Blowing Rock), N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby and Chairman Michael Whatley of the N.C. Republican Party, who was recently elected as the new chair in June.
Chris Hughes, Watauga soil and water conservation district supervisor, said the event served as a fundraiser for Republican candidates.
Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, were the night’s featured speakers. Hosts of a program on the Fox Nation streaming service, Diamond and Silk are social media personalities and political activists for the Republican party.
During the event, guests were served dinner and heard remarks from former state representative and Chairman of the Ashe County Republican Party Jonathan Jordan, Vice Chairman Steve Mochen, Foxx, Ballard, Newby, Whatley, Forest and more.
Following opening remarks from Mochen and Jordan, the night’s featured speakers took to the stage to address issues they felt need attention in the months leading up to the 2020 election.
A number of topics were covered during the event, including healthcare, immigration and what some candidates called “common sense conservatism.”
Mark Robinson, candidate for lieutenant governor and a featured speaker for the event, described common sense conservatism as “pro-constitution, anti-socialism, the whole patriotic package.”
N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell also made an appearance during the event and discussed healthcare with those in attendance.
“No one in this room consumes healthcare,” Folwell said. “It consumes you.”
Folwell added that patients need better access to resources that allow them to better understand the cost of healthcare, referring to the current system as “opaque,” which allows large insurance companies and interest groups to benefit.
“In every other aspect of your life, the customer and the payor are always side by side,” Folwell said, adding that, in healthcare, customers are distanced from the payor.
Foxx and Ballard also addressed the crowd during the event.
“I’ve never been more proud to be a Republican than I am now,” Foxx said. “We really do stand for the values that this country was founded upon and has been successful with, and we have absolutely nothing to apologize for.”
Michael LaPaglia, candidate for secretary of state, said the turnout for the event was similar to the enthusiasm he has seen across the state for the Republican party, with voters most interested in issues surrounding immigration, socialism and abortion.
“The economy is doing well, so that allows all the other issues to be what they are,” LaPaglia said.
On the federal level, candidate Sandy Smith, currently challenging Thom Tillis for his seat in the U.S. Senate, was in attendance. Smith said she hoped to meet more voters and spread her message throughout the evening.
“It’s all about getting out and meeting folks in the community,” Smith said.
Also in attendance were three candidates for lieutenant governor; Robinson, Greg Gebhardt and John Ritter; as well as Justice Newby, who has served on the state Supreme Court since 2004 and is up for re-election in 2020.
“There’s a gathering of folks who are interested in the climate of our state, and it’s always good to mingle with folks who are interested,” Newby said. “What a great turnout.”
Ballard said she hoped to motivate voters during the event and keep that momentum going into 2020.
In the upcoming gubernatorial election, Forest said he will be running for the position after serving in his current role since 2013, leaving a vacancy that at least three other Republican candidates are racing to fill.
Following the evening’s speakers and special guests, the event closed with remarks from Jordan and Watauga County Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Lerch.
“Thank you for all of you who are willing to run for public office in North Carolina,” Lerch said. “We really appreciate your efforts.”