The Cumberland County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Day Dinner on Feb. 4 offers candidates an opportunity to share their views, to do some campaigning and to honor the late Republican President Ronald Reagan. While learning about candidates is an important part of the election process, the dinner is about more than speeches and elections, according to Mikele Haywood, Cumberland County Republican Party events’ chair. She said the dinner is a time to inspire people and engage them in meaningful discussions and activities involving issues that are shaping the nation.

02-01-12-gop-candidate-1.jpg“The Reagan Day Dinner is not just a tribute to Reagan, he was a great man and it is a tribute to him, but it is also a kickoff point for the 2012 campaign,” said Haywood. “It is an important and exciting time. We have exciting candidates coming and it is a great excuse to get out for the evening and be involved.”

Not only do people get a chance to hear what candidates have to say, Haywood pointed out that most of the candidates stay around and chat with attendees after the formal portion of the event. It’s educational and allows voters to make a personal connection with the people running for office.

Some of this year’s scheduled guests are former N.C. GOP Chair Jack Hawke; Dan Forest, candidate for Lt. Governor; Illario Pantano, candidate for U.S. Congress District 7; N.C. Senator David Rouzer, candidate for U.S. Congress District 7; and U.S. Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

In addition to a meal, speakers and engaging discussions, there will be opportunities — lots of opportunities — to volunteer, to register to vote, to become informed, and more.

“The Fayetteville Republican Woman’s Club is the sponsor and co-host for the dinner this year. They will have information there, too,” said Haywood.

“We are also doing a 50/50 raffle. We’ve been selling tickets for $5 and hope to sell more at the dinner so that someone can leave with a nice chunk of change in their pocket.”

Everyone who comes to the dinner will have a chance to vote in a presidential straw poll. “We will announce the winner toward the end of the evening. It is always exciting to see who wins,” said Haywood. “I can tell you that last January when we did a straw poll, Newt Gingrich was the winner here in Cumberland County.”

Living as a conservative in a typically Democrat southern state, the importance of like-minded 02-01-12-gop-candidate-2.jpgpeople gathering together to support each other in a common cause is not lost on Haywood. Educating people about issues and looking for ways to become involved and make important changes are a few of the benefi ts that come out of events like this. To Haywood, events like the dinner are about conservatives coming together and realizing that they are up against some serious challenges.

“(With) the changes that have already taken place in this country, it is going to be devastating if we can’t come back from the abyss,” said Haywood, undaunted. “It all starts at the grass-roots level. This is where it all begins, with people coming together.”

The dinner starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person; $75 per couple and $300 for a table of 8. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 850-3859 or 489-2055.

Photo: Above left: Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and (Right) Illario Pantano, a candidate for Congress, are among the guest speakers at the Reagan Dinner.

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