JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — On the first day of early in-person voting, Michael Whatley is on the go.
The chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party is out visiting polling locations. He’s thanking volunteers and talking to voters.
“We're excited. We’re glad that we got to early voting. I think right now we feel cautiously optimistic,” Whatley said. “We're going to have a really good election cycle for us here in North Carolina.”
Whatley has been involved in Republican politics for decades. In high school he was a part of Young Republicans and for a time served as former Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s chief of staff.
“When I took over as the party chair in 2019, we kind of flipped the paradigm. Instead of saying that the county parties are there to serve the state, we're, as the state, here to serve the county parties,” Whatley said.
The local parties are the ones who know the candidates, the volunteers and the voters, he says.
They’re able to connect to more people by supporting the county parties.
“We see every single office as being particularly important. You know, we can't just say that the county races, the county school boards, the town councils and the mayors aren't as important as a top of the state. When you are looking at the impact on North Carolina families, the local impact is the biggest impact that you're going to have,” Whatley said.
As the state party, part of their job is to raise money to support those local parties and candidates.
They also make sure there are boots on the ground in all 100 counties.
“So we've got 7,500 volunteers that we've brought in, trained and are out there right now having five-minute conversations with voters. They're on phones, they're knocking on doors. And we've had 4 million voter contacts this year alone,” Whatley said.
It’s a day filled with events, including a visit from RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
“As a state North Carolina are always going to be a swing state,” he said. “So it’s so important for us to have those national partners who recognize how important North Carolina is strategically."
In-person early voting began Oct. 20 and ends Nov. 5; Election Day is Nov. 8.