Amid claims from some state leaders of the Republican Party of Iowa that the meeting was illegitimate, the newly formed Third District Executive Committee met Tuesday night in Greenfield to elect officers. The committee is comprised mostly of the GOP county chairs and co-chairs inside Iowa’s Third Congressional District and includes 41 eligible members. 26 were in attendance Tuesday night. A few others voted by proxy.
Naomi Leinen, the co-chair of the Pottawattamie County GOP, was elected chair of the executive committee. Ryan Frederick, the chair of the Adair County GOP, was elected vice-chair and Chad Brown, the co-chair of the Polk County GOP, was named secretary.
“The purpose of the committee is to get Republicans elected,” Leinen said. “To gain back the majority in the senate, to get better walk routes, to get better ground game, better technology. I think it went very well.”
“It’s simply another organizational tool,” Ryan Frederick said. “There’s a level here that’s not being taken care of. One of the big advantages here is we have a wealth of institutional knowledge. A lot of there people have been involved in the party for decades. It’s important for us to feed off each other and share information on what works and what doesn’t.”
Frederick, a field staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley and Cong. Tom Latham’s most recent campaigns, added that the district executive committees can gather a ‘campaign in a can’. The idea is to save the 2014 senatorial, congressional and gubernatorial campaigns lot of work by providing them with key information like county contacts, good venues for events, parade dates and good yard sign locations.
“If we can provide all this information, we can save the campaigns and field staffers two months worth of work,” Frederick added.
Longtime GOP activist Darrell Kearney was involved in Iowa’s district executive committees 20 years ago. He says they were a key component of the Republican Party’s grassroots structure. However, the meetings suddenly stopped. Kearney believes that decision hurt the party.
“Frankly, I think they probably stopped because there were special interests who really wanted to have more input over leadership,” Kearney said. “When I worked at the state party for 10 years, I was quite surprised that we didn’t have executive committee meetings at this level, but I was just told they weren’t needed anymore. I didn’t agree with that then and I don’t agree with that it now. I’m all for the party being built from the grassroots up, not from the top down.”
Despite widespread agreement that reforming the district executive committees is a good idea, Iowa’s RNC National Committeeman Steve Scheffler and State Central Committee member John Kabitzke, who represents the Third District, wrote on Facebook that Tuesday’s meeting was not legitimate. They believe RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker has to set the meeting before it can become official.
“I’m all for these executive committees being set up like they were years ago, 15 or 20 years ago. I’m all for that. But the bottom line is, they need to wait for the call (from the chairman) because until that happens, those meetings and the people they elected, those elections are not binding,” Scheffler told TheIowaRepublican.com.
“Mr. Scheffler’s understanding is mistaken,” Ryan Frederick countered. “I would like to know what it’s based on. Of all these folks that are telling us this is an illegitimate meeting, I would like them to show me on a copy of RPI’s Constitution and Bylaws or state code or somewhere where that’s the case. Chapter, line and verse, please.”
Scheffler recommended TheIowaRepublican.com contact RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker for more information regarding the rules. TIR did attempt to contact Spiker via social media and email, since it was late Tuesday night by that time. He had not responded before this article was published early Wednesday morning.
During their most recent meeting, held one month ago, the Republican State Central Committee did discuss forming district executive committees. They noted that Chairman Spiker would notify the counties when these meetings would take place. So far, those calls have not been made.
“We started before them,” Frederick said. “We had begun this process, the first conversations we had were in January. It was clear to us, reading in plain English, and it was clear to anyone with a law degree that what we were doing is fine, that we were well within the bounds of the rules.”
Another issue with the District Executive Committee arose when Page County GOP Chair John Bowery claimed on Facebook Monday that he had not been invited to the meeting:
However, Polk County GOP Executive Director Ryan Keller says a packet was mailed to all 40 eligible members of the district committee, including Bowery. He added that the addresses for the county chairs and co-chairs had to be obtained from the governor’s campaign apparatus due to “lack of cooperation from the state party”.
“I personally stamped each manila envelope and placed all the envelopes in the mail at the same time on Saturday, April 27,” Keller said. “As of today, May 7, I have not had any of the 40 packets returned to sender for undeliverable mail, bad addresses, nor inefficient postage.”
Bowery’s wife was in attendance at the meeting Tuesday night, but was not allow to vote because she was not an eligible member of the District Executive Committee.
RNC National Committeeman Steve Scheffler expressed frustration that none of the district’s State Central Committee representatives were invited to the meeting.
“I recognize that we didn’t notify the state party on this. I see no requirement in the rules and bylaws that says we have to,” Frederick countered.
“It seems to have been done very much in the dark and I don’t know if that was poor organization or if it was deliberate,” SCC member Joel Kurtinitis said.
Kurtinitis recalls hearing rumors about the meeting about a week ago, but says he did not find out officially it was happening until Tuesday afternoon. Fellow SCC member Wes Enos also says he was informed of the meeting on Tuesday.
“People need to work together,” Scheffler said. “I don’t care whether it’s the state party or the people in the counties, people need to work together. Quit ticking people off. The problem has been the lack of communication and it just needs to stop.”
Scheffler says he and RNC National Committeewoman Tamara Scott plan to conduct listening posts in all 99 counties to held mend rifts within the Republican Party. However, his Facebook post stating the county leaders have “no authority” to convene a District Executive Committee meeting had the opposite effect on Ryan Keller.
“County leaders volunteered their time tonight. None of them will file an expense report for mileage reimbursement from the state party. Some traveled over an hour away from their families at their own personal cost for the purpose of helping Republicans get elected,” Keller said. “We are constantly told how the state party wants to help county parties, but we receive no communication or encouragement. Why do they want to discourage grassroots organizing efforts?”
There have been discussions among county leaders in the state’s other three congressional districts about organizing executive committees, with or without RPI’s approval. Leaders of the state party tangled with the Fourth Congressional District Executive Committee during a meeting in Ft. Dodge in February. That well-publicized incident was also a topic of conversation during the SCC meeting last month, with several members questioning the legitimacy of the Fourth District committee.
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