North Carolina Republicans want a Gaston County energy-industry consultant with lots of Washington experience to head the state party for the next two years.

The state Republican Party convention on Saturday elected Michael Whatley as its chairman. He takes over for former Congressman Robin Hayes. Hayes faces federal criminal charges that he helped a big donor try to bribe the state’s top insurance regulator to go easy on his companies.

Whatley worked in President George W. Bush’s Energy Department and was former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s chief of staff. His goal is to build up the GOP’s connections, fundraising and volunteers ahead of this fall’s municipal elections across North Carolina and next year’s elections for president and U.S. Senate.

Charlotte also hosts the national Republican convention next year.