An attempt to change the way GOP state convention delegates choose their national committeeman and committeewoman is at odds with the Republican Party of Iowa’s Constitution. In years past, elections required candidates to receive support from a majority of the delegates to win. For the 2012 convention, the Rules Committee changed the wording to give the positions to the highest vote getter on the first ballot.
“The person receiving the highest number of votes for each position is elected.” That is the last sentence of Rule #28 in the Report of the Committee on Rules, which is printed in the tabloids that were mailed to all state convention delegates. However, Article XI of the RPI Constitution includes these words: “Such election shall be made by a majority vote of the delegates at the State Convention.”
RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker says the Constitution trumps the Rules Committee. “That will have to be basically removed,” Spiker told TheIowaRepublican.com. “That rule can’t be allowed to stand, otherwise whoever would be elected would be in violation of the Republican Party of Iowa Constitution. We won’t elect people that way.”
The attempt to have party leadership positions decided with less than a majority follows a pattern that developed at some district conventions. The rule change is generally pushed by Ron Paul supporters, who used an organized effort to secure the majority of positions on most of the district and state convention committees. The goal is to help like-minded people get elected to positions of power within the party. The candidates with the best organization are more likely to secure the most votes on the first ballot.
For the Third District convention this year, the Rules Committee changed the way State Central Committee members are elected. Just like the attempt with the state convention, the rule changed from majority vote to highest vote-getter. A pushback led by sitting SCC member Monte Shaw forced a vote on the issue at the convention.
“I feel it’s important that if they’re going to go represent Iowa on the State Central Committee or at the national convention or the RNC, that you have majority support,” Shaw said. “We’re supposed to be expressing the will of the body. If it takes a couple of extra miles to get there, so be it. It’s the right way to do things.”
During the Third District convention, SCC member and Ron Paul campaign co-chair David Fischer spoke out against reverting back to requiring a majority to get elected to committees. He claimed the rule change was made to speed up the convention. After Fischer’s side lost on a voice vote, he called for a standing division, with delegates counted from the stage. Fischer’s side lost again. Then a demand was made that the Sergeant-at-Arms count the votes. Fischer’s side lost again. So he and SCC member Gopal Krischna called for paper ballots. The total was nearly identical to the previous vote and the rule change was reversed.
The SCC members elected by the Third District were decided by majority vote, despite the opposition of most Ron Paul supporters. In the end, it actually helped a Ron Paul supporter get elected to the SCC. Charlie Johnson finished ahead of John Kabitzke on the first ballot, but did not secure a majority of the delegates. Kabitzke was eventually one of the four candidates elected. Johnson was not.
According to RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker, there will be no such quarrels at the State Convention over how the winners are determined. “They need to be in compliance with the Constitution,” Spiker said . “It’s not a worry. The state party wouldn’t want it that way. I expect the Rules Committee will notice they have a problem.”
TheIowaRepublican.com sent an email to the eight-member Rules Committee Wednesday evening to learn more about why the rule was changed and what method they envisioned for choosing the state committeeman and committeewoman at convention. Rick Holman from Dubuque County was the only one who responded.
Holman, who voted for Rick Santorum at the caucus, did not recall discussion of the vote during the Rules Committee’s meeting, nor could he find any reference to it in his notes. He says they used the 2008 and 2010 Rules Committees’ reports as guides. However, in 2008, the national committeeman and committeewoman were determined by majority vote. Holman also does not recall any discussion about the rules differing from the Iowa GOP’s Constitution.
UPDATE: After this article was prepared for publication, we received this email from Rules Committee member Mark Hansen late Wednesday night. Hansen was also the Pottawattamie County coordinator for Ron Paul’s campaign:
“Thank you for your diligence. After reviewing Rule 2 of the Republican National Committee and Article XI of the Constitution of the Republican Party of Iowa, the National Committeeman and National Committeewomen will require a majority vote for election. We will be meeting before the convention to make an adjustment to the proposed rules.
There were a couple reasons for preferring a plurality over a majority. During this caucus cycle, three of the four districts had opted to elect their positions as a plurality instead of a vote of the majority. By keeping the same mentality at the state level, it would have allowed for consistency throughout the caucus process. The second reason was to keep things simple. We have many new people involved in the process and want to keep things as simple and straight forward as possible. A vote by plurality statistically mirrors a vote by the majority, but would have allowed the rule to be written without added complexity.
Although we were elected members to create a set of proposed rules for the convention, the rules that ultimately become adopted must conform with the rules of the national and state party. As the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman are the only caucus elected positions requiring a majority, an oversight was made and was discovered after the rules had been sent to print. The correction is already in process.
Thank you again,
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