GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Guilford County Republican Party, still smarting after its nominated candidate for the Guilford County Board of Education was bypassed based on a legal technicality, has issued a censure against the party member chosen for the board.
William J. “Bill” Goebel last week was voted by the school board to fill the months-vacant position for District 3, despite the Republicans’ desire to have teacher Michael Logan in that seat.
Goebel asks that everyone “calm down” and give him time to do what he can to serve “the youth, parents and educators of District 3.”
Logan, an automotive instructor at Southern Guilford High School who had been seen by the Democratic majority on the board to be “divisive” and to have been offensive in social media posts and public comments, had been rejected by four consecutive votes.
Frustrated by this process, the GOP sought help from state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) to rewrite state statute to remove the board’s approval vote on the candidate they had nominated to fill out the term of Pat Tillman, who had been elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 8.
But school board attorney Jill Wilson discovered a loophole in the 2-week-old House Bill 88 that she said required the entire GOP committee to have nominated a person within 30 days of the opening. The GOP had made its recommendation based on the original statute that required the vote to be solely by members who lived in District 3.
Goebel, a lifelong Republican and member of the party with a career in helping young people, had volunteered several months ago to be a candidate, if the board wanted someone else. But after discussions the GOP executive board decided to stick with Logan, Chair Chris Meadows had said.
When Goebel was nominated and approved by the school board, it stunned Logan, Meadows and other Republicans, which led to the censure.
“Censure … is political punishment for pointing out the misdeeds of a political person,” Meadows told WGHP. “We [the GOP executive board] feel Mr. Goebel deceived the Republican Party.”
GOP was ‘misled’
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Meadows outlined the GOP’s assessment of how Goebel came to be named to the school board. The release called Logan “immensely qualified” and “duly elected by members of the GCGOP Executive Committee.” It referred to Goebel as “cherry-picked” by the school board and said its two Republican members were “misled.”
The release also accuses the board of possibly violating state open meetings laws by saying “a majority of the School Board’s members and their attorney conducted public business in private, non-disclosed meetings without informing all Board members, namely the Republican members.”
Board Chair Deena Hayes did not respond immediately to a text message seeking a response to that assertion.
The GOP board also decried Goebel for voting in affirmation of a rejection of House Bill 187, the proposed “Equality in Education” bill to specify some practices about the treatment of students and parental access to curricula that are covered by existing school policy. The Senate has not moved the bill beyond its Rules Committee.
“In response to the actions of Mr. Goebel’s backroom dealings, the GCGOP Executive Committee affirmed its continued support of Michael Logan and also passed a resolution on April 11, 2023, censuring Mr. Goebel for Party disloyalty, deceiving Party leadership and circumventing the proper avenues for filling a vacancy on the Guilford County Board of Education,” Meadows said in the release.
Goebel, who is out of town on personal business, said in a text message to WGHP that he understands “the frustration and feelings of my colleagues in the GOP” and that he asks “everyone to calm down and let me represent the District.
“I want to stay focused on ‘Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing,’ that is the youth, parents and educators in District 3. To that end, I plan on changing my vote at the next board meeting to support HB 187,” he wrote.
“We are fortunate to have caring and passionate citizens in Guilford County. Positive change takes dedication and a commitment to listen to everyone involved. I plan to represent the youth and families of District 3 by beginning with:
- Changing my vote at the next board meeting supporting HB187.
- Taking care of our youth is my #1 goal. During my term on the school board, I plan to visit every school across District 3 and listen to the needs of our local families, educators and students.
- I will continue to work hard and do this in support of parental rights.”
A censure’s impact
A censure has little tangible effect on Goebel’s service on the board and is “a statement of public disapproval and rebuke” … “to express disdain for something the individual did,” Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College and co-author of the Old North States Politics blog, wrote in an emailed response to a question from WGHP.
Bitzer said the most famous recent censure in the state came in 2021, when the NC Republican Party voted against then-U.S. Sen. Richard Burr because he voted guilty on the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump after the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“As the state GOP chair said at the time, the censure was ‘symbolic gesture of the party’s opposition to Burr’s action,’ and that’s pretty much all that kind of a vote can express,” Bitzer said.
“As a ‘weak’ political party structure in the United States, the party can’t necessarily ‘kick out’ a member or official from their ranks without defeating them in the primary, for example. We are very much a ‘candidate-centered’ system of party nominations, where the individual candidates control more of the nominating process and the parties are typically not involved in who gets nominated.
“In other nations, political parties are much stronger and it’s the party organization that formalizes a candidate as a nominee (to ‘stand for the party’) or not.”
He said the situation involving Goebel and his party “kind of speaks to the hyper-individual dynamics of local politics that aren’t that unusual, but can certainly cause strife and division within a local party organization.”