Gwen Albers/Carolina Public Press

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An estimated 1,000 people attended the three-day NC GOP convention, held in Cherokee last weekend. Gwen Albers/Carolina Public Press

CHEROKEE — Alan Coates, a “forever” Republican who regularly offers his business expertise to the conservative movement, attended his first-ever North Carolina Republican Convention on Saturday.

The 30-minute drive from the 67-year-old’s home in Macon County to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort made it easier.

For the first time in the annual convention’s history, the event was held in the “far west” of Western North Carolina. Previously, the farthest west it had been held was in 2005, when the party convened in Asheville, itself about an hour east of the town of Cherokee.

Alan Coates

Coates, who for 10 years has donated lapel pins, decals and signs from his Franklin graphic arts business to Republican groups nationwide, said he appreciated having the convention in his “backyard.”

“I feel like I can’t do enough for the Republican and conservative movement,” he said, adding that he believes the Democratic party attacks “fundamental attributes for America.”

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William Allison, communications director for the state Republican committee, said the decision to hold the event in Cherokee was made last year. A different location is chosen every year, with past conventions in places like Charlotte and Raleigh.

“We have had a great convention and are happy to be in Cherokee,” Allison said about the three-day event at the resorted owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Located in Swain and Jackson counties, it includes a 1,108-room, 21-story hotel, 10 restaurants and a 3,000-seat event center.

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Pat Carr, Haywood County GOP chairwoman

“We’re making a little bit of history by having the state convention west of Asheville,” Swain County Republican Chairman David Sawyer told 638 delegates during Saturday’s opening ceremony as he welcomed the group to the convention and encouraged attendees to explore the area’s “natural beauty.”

Nada Ann Lawrimore, a delegate from Wilkes County, was pleased to see the convention in a small town.

“We’ve never had one this far west,” the 67-year-old said. “It gives us a different perspective.”

Haywood County GOP Chairwoman Pat Carr said she liked showcasing Western North Carolina.

A resident of the Bethel, which is five miles from the Haywood County town of Canton, the 75-year-old also appreciated the 45-minute drive from home — instead of spending five to six hours driving to attend the convention, as she’d done in the past.

“I realize other folks have an eight-hour drive,” Carr said.

Henry Mitchell, chairman of Buncombe County Republican Party, said he believed the state committee’s main reason for holding the convention in Cherokee was for folks to experience the mountains.

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Henry Mitchell, Buncombe County GOP chairman

“And so we didn’t have to drive all the way to the coast,” Mitchell said. “It shows the Republican party exists west of Statesville and west of Charlotte. We have a lot of conservatives in the area.”

He noted that Western North Carolina counties like Buncombe, Transylvania, Swain and Cherokee had the maximum number of delegates in attendance.

Mitchell also agreed — as many others said at the event — that the resort worked well for the event.

“It’s great,” he said. “The hospitality, layout, the size of the rooms, the audio, the restaurants and the entertainment. The service is top-notch.”

Gwen Albers

Gwen Albers is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at galbers_reporter@yahoo.com.

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