The results of Saturday’s State Central Committee elections are more impressive that one might think. While it has been a given that the libertarian faction that has controlled the Republican Party of Iowa for the past couple of years was going to be escorted out of power, not many people would have predicted it was going to be a clean sweep.
By Saturday afternoon, the slate of 16 out of the 16 candidates were backed by Governor Branstad’s campaign were elected. Congressman King, who also was playing an active role in the attempt to retake control over the Iowa GOP, had endorsed each of the 16 candidates who were elected. Of the 16 member committee, seven incumbents were re-elected, however, two of those incumbents were recently elected after Gopaul Krishna stepped down to run for a vacant co-chair position, and Monte Shaw stepped down to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in Iowa’s Third Congressional District.
After the results from across the state were known, former Republican National Committeeman Steve Roberts, a long time Republican activist who himself is a former Chairman of the committee, pulled me aside to inform me of just how significant the result of the elections really were. Roberts said that once the new committee is seated, it will be the first time since the early years of Governor Bob Ray’s administration that a Republican governor will have a State Central Committee that will work hand and hand with him.
Those who are not celebrating the election of the new State Central Committee members are quick to label them either as pawns of Branstad or moderate establishment Republicans. Neither are accurate descriptions of the people who were elected on Saturday.
The new committee is full of hard working, independent minded Republicans. Their political beliefs vary, but all are solid Republicans who are committed to fiscal responsibility and limited government. There are also plenty of members who are staunchly pro-life, support traditional marriage, and live their lives as proud Christians. Yes, the new State Central Committee is more pragmatic than the one it is replacing, but as political parties are concerned, that’s a good thing.
Even though the make up of the newly elected Republican State Central Committee gives Republicans across the state a reason to be more optimistic and hopeful for the future, the committee members also need to be reminded that the jobs they will soon assume require a great deal of commitment, and that commitment goes beyond volunteering the time to serve the party. I’m talking about a commitment to the party that goes beyond their personal politics and ambitions.
With that in mind, here is some advice I have for the new committee.
1. Reach out and open a dialog with Chairman Danny Carroll.
It’s time to put the pitchforks and torches away and focus on doing what is in the best interest of the Republican Party of Iowa. There are plenty of people who feel it is necessary to remove Carroll as chairman. I understand that sentiment, and his previous statements about Branstad are a concern. However, in the short time that Carroll has served as co-chair and now Chairman, he’s done nothing that would warrant his removal.
There are things that Carroll should address. First and foremost is Steve Bierfeldt, the current executive director of the party. Bierfeldt is a divisive individual, and he should be removed from his current position. The same goes for the RPI intern who was actively campaigning against some now-sitting members of the committee on Saturday at the Third District Convention. The drama and distrust has to end, and jettisoning both would let the healing begin. I hear Rand Paul is hiring, so finding employment or volunteering opportunities should not be a problem.
The reason why the new committee needs to reach out to Carroll is because the way in which they deal with him will set the tone for the next two years. Yes, it can be said that the impressive victories that were achieved on Saturday give this committee somewhat of a mandate when it comes to governing the Republican Party of Iowa, but sacking the Chairman just because you don’t happen to like him or how he was elected does nothing more than continue the infighting that has wreaked havoc on the party for the past few years.
The new committee must now prove that it can work to unite Republicans as we head into the general election. Removing Carroll as chairman when he has done nothing to warrant being shown the door would continue the chaos and infighting that has paralyzed for the Republican Party of Iowa for the past two years. Carroll isn’t cut from the same cloth as his predecessors. He’s a guy that you can sit down and reason with in a respectful manner.
2. Earn Respect not Personal Attention
It’s understandable why some previous members of the State Central Committee felt the need to publicize their opinions on party actions in the media under the previous administration at the Republican Party of Iowa. Those days are now over, and the committee needs to act and communicate with one voice. If you have a problem with something that’s going on with party, WHO radio and Facebook shouldn’t be the first two places you call.
It’s time to work together for the common good of the party. The best way you can build a strong Republican Party in Iowa is not to publicize everything you disagree with. Your role as a State Central Committee member is to earn the respect of the Republicans you represent, not to pout when you don’t get your way.
3. Work to Strengthen County GOP Organizations
If you want a strong Republican Party in Iowa, then it is imperative to have highly functional county Republican organizations. As Republicans, we believe that government closest to the people, governs the best, the same can be said in regard to political organizing. State Central Committee members can facilitate the growth and strengthening of our 99 county organizations by promoting best practices and coordination when appropriate.
4. Utilize the District Executive Committees
The rebirth of the District Executive Committees was a direct result of problems with the previous administration. While it is good to see the district committees meeting again, they need to continue to be active to help with the organization and implementation of the next presidential caucuses.
5. Always Be Mindful of Iowa’s First in the Nation Status
They eyes of the nation are always on both political parties in Iowa. The decisions that the party and its leadership make can, and often times do, impact the future of Iowa’s coveted First in the Nation status. As we have seen in recent years that when there is bickering or arguments within the party ranks, it’s national news. The job of the Republican Party of Iowa and the State Central Committee is to roll out the red carpet and welcome all presidential candidates to participate in the Iowa Caucuses – yes, even those you don’t personally like or think should do well here.
6. Think Outside of the Box When it Comes to the Straw Poll
Here is the one thing you need to know about the future of the Iowa Straw Poll – it’s not the State Central Committee members who will decide it’s fate, it’s the candidates. If in 2016 we have candidates who are willing to participate in the event, it will happen. If they don’t think it is a good use of their time and money, it’s won’t.
Committee members need to start thinking outside the box now about what can be done to make the event better and more helpful to the candidates who participate. We know already that the event as currently constructed is extremely costly for the candidates who participate. It has also become an obstacle for candidates who get in the race late, which, in turn, forces them to plot a strategy that doesn’t include Iowa.
Here’s a tip for you. If you want to put on a large event in August, it can’t be funded exclusively by the candidates themselves. It’s not 1999. As we saw in the 2012 race, money was hard to come by for all the candidates. Maybe it’s time for us to throw the party and just ask them to attend and turn out their supporters.
7. You are not expected to have all the answers.
Iowa’s landscape is littered with former GOP chairs, candidates, staff, and committee members. There is untapped institutional knowledge that can be utilized by the Iowa GOP, whether it’s to improve the state’s early voting effort, save or reform the Iowa Straw Poll, fundraise, improve the caucuses, or better our victory program in the general election. Not only does the Republican Party need to unite in November, but in many ways, it needs to be reconnected. Too much talent has gone unutilized for far too long.
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