The Shelby Dynasty today…

As the General Assembly convenes this week, the prominence of Cleveland County in this assembly is reminiscent of the political history of our county.

From Governor Gardner’s election in 1928 through the early 1960’s, Cleveland County essentially ran NC. Due to the prolific influence of Governor, US Senator and Ambassador Gardner; Governor, NC Senator, Congressman and US Senator Clyde Hoey; NC Senator and Judge James Webb; Congressman and Federal Judge EY Webb; and Speaker O.M. Mull, these men were the core of what became known as the Shelby Dynasty. With few exceptions, the Dynasty directed the governance of North Carolina until the end of Governor Luther Hodges term in 1961. These were pro-business and fiscally conservative Democrats in a time when there was only one viable political party in North Carolina. They were opposed, and occasionally defeated by the liberal, progressive wing of the Democrat Party, but were the dominant force in North Carolina politics for a generation; the only force to have ever commanded NC for so long a time. They carried us through trying times; it was they that made North Carolina the Grand Old Lady of the South.

That political strength continued in the 1980’s as Dr. Jack Hunt became one of the powers in the State House, serving as the Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee and Speaker Pro-Tempore. Senator Ollie Harris’ influence in the Senate was similarly established. Andy Dedmon continued the tradition into this century as an ideologically conservative Democrat leader when elected as a Whip in the House.

As the political landscape changed, we have seen a resurgence of Cleveland County’s influence. As conservative Democrats begin to recognize that Jimmy Carter did not represent their beliefs but Ronald Reagan did, the people of Cleveland County begin to see that the Democrat Party had become controlled by progressives; the liberals that Governors Gardner and Hoey had so fervently opposed. Voters recognized the Democrat party had forsaken the basic tenants of American philosophy at the national and state level. The name of the party for which they voted began to change, but the core ideology of the people of the county did not. For the first time ever, Republicans like John Weatherly and Charlie Harry became viable candidates in Cleveland County.

Today, we are represented in every state office by conservatives, now Republicans. Representative Moore is chairman of the powerful Rules Committee of the House, the position once held by Dr. Hunt. Senator Clary is chairman of the Government Performance Audit Committee, charged with reviewing agencies for waste and fraud. Freshman Representative Mike Hager is the elected leader of the largest freshman class in recent memory- leading a third of the members of the majority party, and Representative Hastings serves on the influential Appropriations and Commerce committees.

The conservative tradition of the Shelby Dynasty continues, and after 90 years remains the outspoken voice in North Carolina for jobs, business, and fiscal responsibility. The legacy of Governor Gardner and Governor Hoey lives.

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