Republican State Central Committee member Kris Thiessen came up short in her bid for reelection as the Clay County GOP chairwoman on Tuesday. Thiessen lost to Will Jones during the party’s officer elections. Several longtime Iowa Republican activists TIR spoke to could not recall the last time a sitting SCC member lost a reelection for a county chair seat.
Jones, 26, becomes one of the youngest GOP county chairs in the entire state. In fact, he might be the youngest. Jones, a farmer from rural Clay County, says he was encouraged to get involved in the central committee by other members. As the officer elections neared, there was no one available to challenge Thiessen for chair, so he decided to give it a shot. County central committee members said there was record turnout for Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’ve been a Republican forever, as long as I’ve been alive and I’ve always been a real strong advocate for issues,” Jones told TheIowaRepublican.com. “It was one of those things that they were looking for someone who could dedicate the time and help with fundraising. Fundraising had been lacking in Clay County and there are needs that weren’t being met.”
Kris Thiessen’s tenure as Clay County GOP chair began in July 2010. After she was defeated, Thiessen left the meeting since she was no longer a member of the central committee.
Co-Chair Josh Davenport was reelected. However, toward the end of the meeting, Davenport decided to resign his position.
“I gave it some thought during the rest of the meeting and decided I felt that even though I received the majority of the vote, that those that were going to be more active within that committee would prefer to work with the runner-up in the future,” Davenport said. “Since that runner-up was already suggested to fulfill other goals and I was not and he would probably be more in a position to do what a co-chair would normally do.”
Josh Davenport was a candidate for the Iowa House last year, but lost in the Republican primary. Loren Reit, a local businessman who finished as the runner-up in Tuesday’s co-chair election, was selected to fill the position after Davenport’s resignation.
Thiessen and Davenport publicly endorsed Ron Paul in September 2011. Thiessen was elected to the State Central Committee last year during the Fourth District convention. Although she had the backing of the majority of district delegates in 2012, she failed to the win the majority of votes among Clay County’s 26 central committee members 11 months later.
Thiessen is part of the contingent of former Paul-backers who seized control of the Republican Party of Iowa’s state leadership apparatus. Because of that takeover, there has been a pushback against the Paul backers on the county level during officer elections this year and Thiessen joins a growing line of “liberty” candidates who have been defeated in those contests. Will Jones said Thiessen’s ties to the Ron Paul contingent were not the primary reason she was ousted from leadership, but they played a factor.
“The main reason is finances, but yes, it’s no secret throughout the entire state that finances have been down,” Jones said. “It’s no secret that that’s an issue and this is one way of dealing with it on a local level.”
Jones said the treasurer’s report noted that the party did not have enough money to pay for a booth at this year’s Clay County Fair, which is one of the most prominent county fairs in the Midwest. Josh Davenport noted that raising money has been an issue for Clay County Republicans since before he and Thiessen were elected in 2010.
Will Jones has set an immediate goal for the party to raise $5,000. He also commended Thiessen and Davenport for the job they had done and said he hoped to unite Clay County Republicans.
“I’ve got complete respect for the people involved and they did have some notable achievements,” Jones said. “Our main goal is to be an effective partner with people that want to seek office on any level, whether it’s city council, state rep. supervisors. All those people should be able to trust us that we will be there to give them the help they need. We’re trying to unify our party, not trying to split things into separate groups.”
Jones added that he hopes to meet with Kris Thiessen soon for the good of the Clay County GOP. When contacted by phone late Tuesday night, Thiessen said she had company at her home and declined to comment for this story.
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