Hasan Harnett
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Delegates to the 2015 North Carolina Republican State Convention took a major step toward diversity. They elected Hasan Harnett as the party’s chairman—the first African American to hold that position. Harnett says he can make the party more appealing to minorities, the Charlotte Observer reports.

His June 6 victory was “a rebuke” of Craig Collins, the candidate whom most top party leaders endorsed, according to the Observer.

In fact, Harnett is the first chairman who has overwhelming grassroots and Tea Party Republican support, the Observer notes in an interview with Harnett.

Harnett, 39, is a businessman and motivational speaker. The Massachusetts native described himself as apolitical when he registered as a Democrat after relocating to North Carolina for a job as a financial analyst.

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“If you said Democrat, Republican or independent, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about,” he told the Observer. Harnett explained that he joined the Democratic Party because most African Americans are Democrats.

But as a Democrat in 2008, Harnett says, he bypassed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary and wrote in Ron Paul.

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In 2010 he switched parties. Harnett became active in the state Republican Party after meeting Tim Johnson, who founded the Frederick Douglass Foundation. The organization describes itself as “the largest Christ-centered, multiethnic and Republican ministry in America.”

Since then, he has worked on several Republican campaigns across the state. Harnett’s goal is to build the party at the grassroots level and get it ready for 2016, he told the Observer.

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Read more at the Charlotte Observer.