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Candidate challenges GOP chair at Saturday convention

In rarity for the party, Henderson County Republicans will have a choice when they elect a new chair on Saturday.

Ron Kauffman is challenging incumbent chair Glen Englman, who was appointed to the position when then-Chair Andrew Riddle filed for a seat on the county Board of Commissioners in February 2014.
"I think he's done a reasonably good job," Kauffman said. "I wouldn't feel terrible with either one of us being elected. My decision has nothing to do with Glen's running, whether he's doing a good job, bad job, whatever. I feel I can do an excellent job and I'll leave it up to the people who vote to decide whether I'm the person they would like to do it or whether it's Glen."
The two candidates actually share more similarities than differences.
Both are relatively new to the area, having lived here less than five years. And both started their political involvement locally with Tea Party chapters. Kauffman was chairman of the Henderson County Tea Party. Englram led the Blue Ridge Tea Party Patriots.
"I'm not Tea Party," Kauffman said. "I haven't been involved with the Tea Party since 2012. Why? On a national basis I felt like the Tea Party was being painted ... right or wrong with a brush that I didn't think was fair. I basically moved away from that."
While Englram said a contested election could be a good thing, he objected to his opponent's timing.
"Some have used the word 'ambush' to describe what this is," he said. "How did people feel about the fact that, frankly less than a week before the convention a candidate announces that he's running? It is what it is. We have a contest. I know some people would say there are times when it's good to have something like this. The downside is because of the timing of it, we just don't have the opportunity like you would during the regular campaign."
Convention rules allow just seven minutes for candidates to make their case.
"I'm sure you would agree with me that for an election of this importance that's not a lot of time," he said.
"I intend to continue," added Englram, a retired human resources executive who grew out outside Chicago. "We've got some really good things under way at the grassroots level. I think they can continue and they would continue under my administration."
In an email to party members, he laid out his achievements as party leader, including the recruiting of new precinct chairs, coordinating with the Republican Men's and Women's clubs to sponsor candidate forums, staffing early voting sites with volunteers, fundraising and using online tools to help Republican candidates.
"I don't ask you to follow me based simply on what I say," he said. "Lord knows there are more than enough words, speeches and newspaper articles to go around. I ask you to judge me on the results we've achieved and for the example I have set personally by my own actions."
Kauffman, who worked as a sales executive with Levitz Furniture stores and in technology, got involved in politics in Florida as a volunteer for the Tea Party firebrand Allen West, a former congressman. After moving to Hendersonville the previous fall, he got aboard the Mark Meadows campaign in early 2012.
Asked what kind of reaction he's received about his candidacy, he said, from "people who are firmly in his camp I'm getting the question, 'Why are you doing this? You're going to divide the party.'"
He said he was urged to run, although he would identify his supporters only as "people who are very well known in the community."
"I didn't wake up and say, 'I've got nothing better to do than bang my head on this and go do it.' Recently, two and a half, three weeks ago at the most, I was approached and I gave it some time. I didn't jump at the idea because it's a lot of work. It's probably a very thankless job. I have a life. I thought about the strengths I can bring and these people felt that I would do a good job."
Any voter who was a registered Republican by Jan. 31 can participate in the election during the party convention at the Opportunity House. Voters would need to arrive by 9 a.m. and register by precinct. In addition to the election of chair, the convention will feature remarks by elected officials.