I Join a Battle I Fully Expect to Lose in a War I Can No Longer Ignore

Don Quixote de la Mancha

Picasso’s Don Quixote de la Mancha

On Friday, I called into the Simon Conway Show on WHO Radio and called for the resignation of RPI chairman AJ Spiker. Shortly after, during his guest spot on the show, fellow SCC member Jamie Johnson also called for AJ’s resignation.

As I suggest in the title of this post, I do not expect AJ to actually resign and I am certain that there are not enough votes to remove him from office. Even so, I can no longer sit by and ignore the damage being done to this party.

The Republican Party of Iowa is experiencing a crisis — a crisis of confidence. The current hot button  issue is the scheduling of the 2014 Republican State Convention and the potential for that convention to nominate the Republican candidate for US Senate.  The convention debacle is just the tip of the iceberg, my call for AJ’s resignation goes much deeper than the timing of the convention. Kevin Hall at the Iowa Republican.com asked me for a quote on this for his weekly column and I said;

My call for AJ’s resignation or removal is not based on the moving of the convention date. Rather it is a general leadership style that is absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside his inner circle. The convention date is just the latest in a string of such incidents.

Ultimately, we are going into 2014 with the rare opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat and the level of distrust between the leadership of RPI and the grassroots has never been higher. The convention date is just another example of AJ squandering an opportunity to at least consult with the governor, our senate candidates, or the newly formed District Executive Committees and get buy-in or form a consensus. Instead, by making the decision and doubling down in response to criticism, he has managed to further weaken our party and thus our candidates. AJ is not the only one to blame here but the stakes are too high to continue down this path. He needs to go.

RPI has always struggled to find a way to be relevant to the county central committees and activists across the state so this problem is not new. However, as I said in the quote above, the current administration has been absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside its inner circle. As much as this current administration talks about the grassroots of the party, and we the people — at the end of the day it is really  all talk.

The convention date issue is a perfect example of the way AJ runs the party. Now, I have received some criticism for commenting on this issue because I did not attend the last SCC meeting. But even that is an example of AJ listening only to his inner circle. In July, an SCC member asked AJ, in an electronic forum for SCC members (OK, I admit it,  it was on Facebook) when the next SCC meeting was. Traditionally SCC meetings are scheduled a year in advance, but AJ had not done so. AJ replied that the meeting would be in September. I cleared my weekends in September waiting for the announcement. In mid August we were told to expect a meeting in two weeks. By that time, I had already scheduled to be on site at a client facility in California and I could not make it back in time for the meeting. In his note to the SCC, AJ said they were trying to make a September date work but there were conflicts. Maybe I’m not part of the inner circle on the SCC [and even if I were, I am pretty sure that I am not now :)] but AJ didn’t ask me if the August date had any conflicts. In fact it looks like he didn’t ask a lot of people because four SCC members could not attend due to longstanding prior commitments (one additional member did not attend due to a family emergency). Ultimately, what has turned out to be the most controversial SCC meeting in recent times was also the most poorly attended.

When AJ brought the date issue up to the SCC he brought it to the Organization Committee. The Organization Committee, headed up by Gopal Krishna, had not been given the proposal in advance but quickly agreed and sent it on to the full SCC. There has been some debate (and unfortunately some name-calling) about the SCC vote on the date, but the SCC passed the measure with no dissenting votes. Instead of informing the committee in advance and giving the SCC time to examine the proposal and perhaps seek input from the counties, AJ waited to the last minute and the committee went along with it. Now, I don’t think AJ did anything wrong here, he didn’t violate any rules — he just failed to give the SCC opportunity for any meaningful input in this decision — and it has come back to bite all of us.

Of course, If you have read this far, you probably now that when the decision was made to move the convention date, the governor, Senator Grassley and all of the declared US Senate candidates said that it was a bad idea. Apparently AJ had not gotten their input either. In fact even though the date change was in response to an interpretation of Iowa election law, he had not sought the advice of the Secretary of State’s office either.

As pressure began to mount from all sides to move the convention back to the June date, SCC member Joel Kurtinitis (an AJ supporter) requested that AJ call a meeting of the SCC, by teleconference, to discuss the matter. AJ told the SCC that he would be meeting with the Governor’s office and all the senate campaigns to discuss the issue. I thought that this was a good idea, better late than never. After a week passed, I seconded Joel’s request. In the end, AJ met with the interested parties, and RPI Legal Counsel William Talbot. Based on an opinion from Talbot, AJ ignored the wishes of the governor’s office and the candidates and unilaterally decided not to call and SCC meeting. Of course, he also ignored the requests that Joel and I had made for such a meeting. In the face of criticism, AJ’s response was to double down and become more entrenched in his position — even ignoring requests for input from the SCC.

After AJ’s announcement that he would not change the date, it became apparent that there were enough SCC members willing to sign on to a call for a meeting that it was going to happen with or without AJs blessing. And then Secretary of State Matt Schultz dropped a bombshell. Saying that,

no political party should use the excuse of the final date of the statewide canvass to determine the date of its special nominating convention. Furthermore, to state that it is necessary to hold a special nominating convention after the conclusion of the state canvass is not only misleading, it is false.

Finally, AJ called for a meeting of the SCC by teleconference scheduled for  Monday, September 23.

We have an historic opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat, we have an open US House seat and we need to win back a majority in the Iowa Senate. During these crucial times, instead of leading the party forward and preparing us for victory in 2014 — we find ourselves more divided than at any time in my memory. AJ has ignored any input from outside his inner circle. Rather than embrace the newly formed District Executive Committees and use them as an opportunity to build the party, he pushed back against their formation and challenged their legitimacy.

To be fair, the ills of the party, are not all AJ’s fault. But, as Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, he has not been part of the solution — he is a part of the problem. It is time for him to go.