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McDonald also said Coble's office had been getting negative feedback from some people who were upset that Coble refused to endorse Phillips. He said he thinks a lot of that has to do with a division in the local Republican Party.
In Guilford County
– as well as across the nation – there has been a rift in the Republican Party in recent years between old line Republicans and Tea Party advocates.
"I've worked for Coble for 28 years," McDonald said. "It's the same fight 28 years later with different names and different people."
In Guilford County
, over the past three years, the most prominent incarnation of Tea Party politics has been Conservatives for Guilford County
(C4gc). Phillips has worked closely with that group, but he has stated that he wants to run a broad-based campaign that focuses on all types of Republicans and others concerned with the future of the county and the country.
Phillips said this election is too important nationally and locally for Republicans to be fighting internally.
In the primary race this year, some C4gc members were upset that Coble endorsed District 6 Republican primary winner Hank Henning over Jeremy Williams, who has been an active member of C4gc.
McDonald said he thinks that rift is playing a role in this controversy.
"It all goes back to Hank Henning," McDonald said.
Gibson said that, weeks ago, after Phillips spoke with Coble about getting a positive statement, Coble let Gibson know he was going to allow Phillips to use a picture of the two as well as a statement.
"Howard said at that time that he wasn't endorsing him," said At-large County Commissioner Paul Gibson, Phillips' opponent for the District 5 seat.
Gibson said he didn't have a problem with Coble making a positive comment about Phillips, and Gibson said he conveyed that to Coble.
Commissioner Billy Yow, who, like Phillips, ran against Coble in the Republican primary for the Sixth District congressional seat in 2010 – and also in 2012 – said that, when it comes to endorsements, it's well known that Coble maintains a sharp line between endorsing a candidate and offering a positive statement.
"He makes it very clear," Yow said. "Howard's position is, I will get you a letter, but I will not say 'I endorse.'"
Yow said that, in this case, it's no surprise Coble wouldn't endorse Phillips because Gibson and Coble are both longtime politicians who have to work together.
"They go back many, many years," Yow said of Coble and Gibson.
McDonald made the same point; he said Coble and Gibson have "worked together for 40 years."
Yow said that a similar controversy arose years ago when former Guilford County
Commissioner Phyllis Gibbs was running for office. Yow said Gibbs said she had gotten Coble's endorsement, but then she later had to walk that claim back.
Yow said that, if Coble endorses you, you know it. He said Coble makes it clear and always has.
"He's consistent in what he does," Yow said.