There's a new GOP party emerging across the country, and the Horry County Republican Party is moving in the same direction with a whole new administration.
"We reached out to the grassroots and we took our party back," said Johnnie Bellamy, the new county party chairwoman elected at the county party convention held this past weekend.
In addition to the new leadership, the group elected more delegates to the statewide GOP convention in May than ever before.
But that's not enough.
Bellamy said the major goal of the new administration - including vice chairman Michael Connett and state committeeman Larry Richardson - is to grow each of the county's 120 precincts, building on the area's strong conservative base, so GOP voters here play a bigger role not just in statewide politics, but nationally, as well.
For example, Bellamy said a group of GOP party members planned to attend Monday night's redistricting hearing to advocate Horry County getting the new congressional district when district lines are redrawn later this year.
"We've proved we are the economic driver," Bellamy said, "and we need that congressional seat to represent us."
"Everyone should go to these meetings," Connett said. "It's going to affect Horry County. They want to see how passionate we are about getting more representation here."
Cameron Crawford, a member of the South Strand Republican Club, said he saw Saturday's convention as part of a fusion between the Tea Party and Republicans - a blend that's changing the face of the GOP all over the nation.
"The traditional Republicans haven't left the picture, but the people who were there [at Saturday's convention] were looking for something different," Crawford said. "The tea party has had a huge influence on the Republican party here, but traditional Republicans have not left the picture.
"I'm hoping for unity between the two groups and I already see that coming to fruition. There is a lot of common ground between the two."
Randal Wallace, a Myrtle Beach City Council member who ran against Bellamy for party chair, said he hopes the blend is coming.
"When I was growing up, [conservatives] spent all our time running against Democrats, but in the past eight to 10 years, we've been fighting each other," Wallace said.
"We need to be working on the issues that are important to conservatives - smaller government and lower taxes - as a team. The influx of people who identify with the tea party is really good because they bring a lot of energy. It's a real asset."
Bellamy said the Republican party seems to be reacting to that energy.
"People are excited," she said. "It's happening all over the country, not just here. ... It is a melding of conservatives, whether they were part of either group or not."
Saturday's convention had 200 new attendees, she said, and she credits the tea party's work with bringing most of them out.
Conservatives are alarmed about federal spending and debt, and taxes, Bellamy said, and the tea party is working to get more people involved. Crawford said traditional Republicans are doing the same, and the blend will only make the party stronger.
Harnessing grassroots energy will help the party expand, raise more money, get out more voters and further support conservative candidates and the representatives already in office, Bellamy said.
Although the Grand Strand has a strong and passionate Republican base and a growing tea party, Bellamy said the actual GOP party organization needed some updates.
"Organizationally, it hasn't been a strong group," Bellamy said. "The membership hasn't grown, and the group wasn't meeting its own bylaws."
Wallace said Bellamy put a lot of thought into what her leadership could mean to the group, and "she has a really well worked-out plan. A lot of it is right on the button, and I'm going to help her wherever I can."
The group is required to hold four executive committee meetings a year, which Bellamy said will happen, and has standing committees for everything from membership and rules to public relations and training that also need regular meetings. Bellamy said the party's website needs improvement, as well.
But mostly, she and Connett agreed, the group needs to grow.
"We are allowed to have 2,600 delegates at the state convention," she said, "and last time we had about 300."
Delegates choose the state party leadership and can also be elected to represent the state at the national GOP convention, which will be in Tampa for the 2012 presidential election.
"It's a lot of hard work, but there are more people getting involved and that's terrific," Connett said. "It's very encouraging to see people who share the same concerns getting to work. That's good for our county."