The GOP gets tons of advice, mostly bad and from non-Republicans. Here’s what’s really happening.
New officers will be elected January 28th by the Republican National Committee — 56 party chairs and two members from each state and territory. Not having the Presidency frees party leaders to make their own call. Highest profile candidate for the chairman’s post is former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, whose advantages are plenty of charisma and the ability to be a great spokesperson. Disadvantage is too many ties to the “ancien regime,” which has blown the last two elections. GOP troops everywhere want a house-cleaning.
Two major contenders are Michigan State Chair Saul Anuzis and South Carolina Chair Katon Dawson. Anuzis, a Lithuanian immigrant and former Democrat whosE dad was a UAW worker, built a successful high-tech company and would bring those attitudes with him. Dawson, owner of a large family auto parts business, chairs a winning operation in his home state and has solid support in the Southeast.
Also in the hunt are Texas State Chair Tina Benkiser, former Tennessee Executive Director Chip Saltzman and former Iowa Congressman and Head of OMB Jim Nussel. Current Chairman Mike Duncan would like to remain but there’s no traction for the status quo.
Note - all are conservatives. None want the party moved to philosophical mushmouth land. Change wanted here involves strategy and competence.
State GOP Chair Randy Pullen is seeking re-election on Jan. 24th by those elected at the legislative district level to the State Committee from among elected precinct committeemen. Pullen won two years ago over comparative moderate Lisa James by only four votes. He previously served as National Committeeman, defeating long serving Tucsonan Mike Hellon in a stormy brawl.
Pullen has had a stormy tenure. He was never supported by the congressional delegation, which culminated in the flap over the immigration bill supported by Sens. Kyl and McCain and strongly disliked by many in the state party. Relations were so bad some congressmen even urged the diversion of funds away from the state party, greatly handicapping Pullen’s ability to function at all. They were waiting for him to flop and be replaced by one to their liking.
But Pullen didn’t flop. Dire predictions about losses in the state legislature turned into gains in both houses. Conservatives who weren’t supposed to be elected, like Al Melvin in District 26 and David Stevens in District 25, were, while campaigns getting most of the money and attention in CD5 and CD8 were getting stomped. Potential replacements for Pullen never got elected precinct committeeman, and Pima County, flush with new legislators and re-invigorated troops, is much friendlier country.
Locally, Pima County Chair Judi White is retiring. She fired her exec director Linda White (no relation), who Pullen then hired and put in charge of the new Vistoso GOP office, credited with electing both Melvin and Vic Williams in District 26 while Tim Bee’s campaign avoided it. Score final results for Pullen.
Pima County Vice-Chair Jim Kaucher is available to replace White, as is current State Third Vice-Chair Paralee Schneider, but new face Bob Westerman who ran in Democrat LD27, is campaigning hard and not tainted by past alliances. That choice will be made on Jan. 10, as will Pinal County, where Marty Hermanson is favored to replace retiring Tommy Tucker.
The basic differences are hardly ideological. They involve elected officials and big fund-raisers wanting party types to write checks, make phone calls and leave the issues to them, versus party workers who believe they pick candidates and write platforms, not the other way around.
I suspect Democrats have the same problem.
Listen to Emil Franzi and Tom Denehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 690 AM.