The so-called “liberty” crowd’s monopoly on state leadership positions in the Republican Party of Iowa is causing a backlash at the county level. Much like they did in Ft. Dodge last Tuesday, grassroots activists are revolting against the Ron Paul-aligned group’s efforts to consolidate power inside the party. This time, three prominent Paul backers fell to defeat in one of the libertarian icon’s Iowa strongholds.
Ron Paul drew large crowds for his Story County events during the 2012 Iowa Caucus campaign. He also came very close to winning the 2011 Ames Straw Poll. The last three Story County GOP chairman all endorsed Paul’s 2012 bid. He came within 10 votes of winning the county on caucus night. However, at least inside the county central committee, the tide is turning against those affiliated with the Paul campaign.
The Story County GOP elected Dane Nealson as their new chairman on Monday. Nealson defeated Cory Adams, who was the sitting chair and had publicly endorsed Ron Paul in 2011. Adams had succeeded A.J. Spiker, the current RPI chairman and former Ron Paul campaign vice-chair. Spiker is still a Story County GOP member and was in attendance Monday night.
Cory Adams is well liked among the Story County central committee. However, his allegiance to Spiker hampered his bid for reelection, according to several central committee members. Dane Nealson’s campaign experience was another major factor in the outcome.
Despite his relative youth, the 27-year old Ames resident is a political veteran. Nealson is the former state chair of the Iowa College Republicans. He also ran the GOP Victory office in 2010 and worked on the 2012 Iowa presidential campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry. Nealson made an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Democrat Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell in an overwhelmingly liberal district in 2012.
“Cory Adams is a good friend of mine and there is absolutely no animosity from my side,” Nealson said. “He’s done a great job the last two years. I just wanted to take my experience working for political campaigns, running my own House campaign and having led the statewide college Republican organization, take those experiences and apply them to Story County so we can go to the next level.”
While Cory Adams “liberty” ties were not necessarily his undoing, the same could not be said for Dusty Juhl and Melinda Wadsley. All three lost Story County GOP elections on Monday. Several central committee members said they voted against Juhl and Wadsley specifically because of their allegiance to Ron Paul and the liberty crowd.
Dusty Juhl is one of the state leaders of Campaign for Liberty, the organization Ron Paul started following his 2008 presidential run. Juhl is also the publicity chair for the Story County GOP and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC convention. He was one of the 22 Iowa delegates that voted for Ron Paul at the convention, despite Paul’s third place finish in the Iowa Caucus.
Juhl ran for secretary of the Story County GOP during Monday night’s meeting, but was defeated by Laura Carlson. She was not even a member of the central committee. Carlson was attending her first Story County GOP meeting and many committee members had never even met her. However, Carlson’s brief speech and Juhl’s “liberty” baggage were enough reasons for the central committee to choose her.
Later in the meeting, the central committee voted to fill a few vacancies in their ranks. Dusty Juhl nominated Melinda Wadsley for one of the precincts. Last year, she was chosen as a “candidate for elector” by Republicans in the Fourth Congressional District. It is the electors who ultimately cast the deciding votes in presidential elections.
Wadsley gained national notoriety when she publicly declared it was likely she would cast her electoral vote for Ron Paul, not Mitt Romney, if Romney won Iowa in the 2012 general election. A move like that could have thrown the presidential election into chaos, had the race been close. Wadsley was later convinced by A.J. Spiker to resign as candidate for elector.
Melinda Wadsley is also the director of development for Liberty Iowa PAC. TheIowaRepublican.com viewed an email sent from Wadsley’s Liberty Iowa account in which she was encouraging fellow “liberty” folk to attend the meeting on Monday and fill the vacant slots on the committee.
However, Wadsley’s infamous stance against the Republican presidential nominee cost her a slot on the Story County GOP central committee, several members told TheIowaRepublican.com after the meeting. Wadsley and David Pedersen, the new chairman of the Iowa State University College Republicans, were competing for the same open position. The committee opted for Pedersen.
Following the meeting, several central committee members were practically giddy about the night’s proceedings. After watching the liberty crowd takeover the state party last year, many Iowa Republicans have been anxious to reclaim it. In Story County, they achieved that goal in one fell swoop.
Just like last Tuesday’s 4th District Executive Committee meeting in Ft. Dodge, a message was sent to RPI’s state leadership Monday in Ames. The Ron Paul campaign did not have a mandate from conservatives to run the entire party apparatus. They simply out-organized the other factions of the party, because the other factions did not try.
No other presidential campaign in Iowa put a concerted effort into acquiring delegates and taking over the State Central Committee. Now, conservatives in the Fourth District are taking their party back. The liberty crowd is suddenly learning that when the other side organizes, success is much more difficult to come by.
As for the Story County GOP, new Chairman Dane Nealson already has a blueprint for enhancing the party.
“First of all, a major effort will be focusing on fundraising right off the bat,” Nealson said. “I want to see us get out quarterly fundraising newsletters, start to reach out to some high dollar donors that we haven’t necessarily had in recent memory, and also build on the success of our previous fundraising dinners. I want to use my connections to try to bring in big name speakers to bring in a bigger crowd and look at various options for host committees and things like that.”
Photo by Caree Severson
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