To my Republican friends in the First Congressional District. I have had the honor of representing you on the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee now for 8 years. There have certainly been challenges during those years, but I have also had a number of tangible accomplishments on the committee that I would like to enumerate for you.
They say you should never respond to a situation in the heat of the moment, in anger. But that’s why I got elected to the State Central Committee in the first place. Before I joined the committee, elections for chairman were done in secret. Those of us watching from the cheap seats, those who were not on the committee didn’t even know who was running for chair. The SCC voted by secret ballot and even members did not know the outcome of the vote! The last time this was done, the Vauditor, state auditor David Vaudt, counted the ballots and declared the winner without sharing the actual count with the committee. The committee, then voted to make the results unanimous! Out in the counties no one even knew who was running much less the vote totals.
So, when the SCC re-elected Ray Hofmann as chairman after a disastrous election cycle I was so mad that I couldn’t even speak to my friends on the committee. I ran for a seat and vowed to bring transparency to the process. (I still favor a secret ballot.) But in the next election, we had an open process with candidates actually campaigning and meeting with activists across the state. We had an open candidate forum in Des Moines and as soon as the vote was completed, Republicans across the state were able to see the results on social media. I kept my promise to bring the process out of the smoky back rooms and into the light. I supported transparency before it was cool.
From my very first election I promised that as an SCC member I would not publicly endorse nor accept any money from any candidate or any organization trying to influence the Republican Party of Iowa. Some of you may read this and think that this is no big deal … that’s what we expect from our SCC members. I agree, but that has not always been the case. In the 2012 caucuses, the SCC included three of the top Iowa campaign officials for a single candidate as well as at least one other paid presidential campaign staffer and one or two other members who had publicly endorsed presidential candidates. Also, during my tenure a party chairman was on the salary of a PAC trying to gain influence in Iowa.
I did not run for SCC as a crusader for neutrality, rather I promised to be personally neutral and have always done so. Every cycle, Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucuses are under attack and the impression that the deck is stacked at the state party doesn’t help that. To remain first in the nation, Iowa must remain welcoming to all candidates.
The current SCC is the first one to pledge that all employees, officers and members would remain neutral in caucuses and primaries. I was neutral before it was cool.
In one of my campaign speeches for SCC I said:
I don’t want to that guy from Des Moines who comes to your county and tells you what the State Party wants you to do … I want to be that guy from the First Congressional District who goes to Des Moines and tells the State Party what the counties in the First Congressional District want them to do!
For nearly two decades, long before I was on the SCC, I have been fighting to do away with the Saturday night nominating conventions for District Delegate to the National Convention. Many of you will remember that every four years the District Convention reconvenes in Des Moines the night before the state convention to elect delegates and alternates to the National Convention. I have long argued, that the proper place to do district business is in the district at the district convention.
You may ask, why did we have these Friday night conventions in the first place? Wasn’t the attendance always significantly lower than at the District Conventions? That is precisely the point. Because many people would have had to take a day off of work and get a hotel room in Des Moines, Friday night attendance was always low. This situation allowed a small highly organized (unnamed here) group to get their supporters out and year after year they have controlled who gets to go to the National Convention.
I was the first and most consistent voice on the SCC to call for an end to this charade and finally, after eight years, as chairman of the SCC Organization Committee, I have convinced enough members and there will no more Friday night nominating convention!!!! Each congressional district gets to elect three delegates and three alternates to the national convention and those elections will happen at our district convention in Cedar Falls. I supported the districts before it was cool.
[Now, before you get too excited, adding those two elections and an election for District Elector (our representative to the Electoral College) to the convention has the potential to dramatically complicate the district convention, so I am open to suggestions o how to handle this. We are currently considering supporting the districts with some type of electronic voting or reporting system for convention. –DC]
Historically every State Convention committee, rules, platform …, has met in Des Moines the week after the district conventions. Each committee’s report is then published in the State Convention tabloid and mailed to every delegate the week before convention. That is each committee but one … the nominating committee. The nominating committee is the one that puts together a slate of at-large delegates and alternates to the National Convention. With a few notable exceptions, this slate has been approved by the State Convention without modification.
So how does the nominating committee work? Well, they meet the night before the State Convention, after the Districts do their nominations. Their members are elected that night by the districts and they meet in secret to come up with a slate of candidates. Then the slate is posted in the convention hall and approved the next day.
But let me tell you how it really works — I know because before I was on the SCC the powers that be recruited me to chair this committee and I did so at one of our state conventions.
What really happens is that there is an insiders cabal that recruits national delegates and alternates. Because the nominating committee is elected at the Friday night conventions with much smaller turnouts, the cabal is able to organize and control who is on the nominating committee. the year I chaired it, we met, after midnight, in a smoky back room and the cabal made their slate. The rules required that it be posted in the convention hall, and it was … on two 8 1/2 by 11 pages in the back of the hall for 2000 convention goers to read. I read the names from the podium and no one really had an opportunity to figure out who these people were or vet them.
This year the nominating committee will meet be elected at the District Conventions. They will meet in Des Moines with the other committees and publish their results in the tabloid before State Convention. Every one will have a chance to see who has been nominated before the vote.
I have been fighting this since the year I was part of the cabal. I was for an open process before it was cool.
[The election of national delegates has been the most contentious part of every quadrennial State Convention. I am pretty sure that this year will be no different. I still have not come up with the right way to do this … but I will always prefer doing things in the light of day than in the dark of night. –DC ]
Support for our Candidates
I get asked a lot about litmus tests for candidates. When I ran for SCC, I promised you that the only candidate litmus test I would have was you … the Republicans of the district that elected me. The litmus test is the primary, I vowed to support every candidate that you (we) nominate thought he primary process. I do not know how one could claim to be a leader in the party and not support the choices made by the party’s grassroots.
Before re-districting, when I was in the old Second District, I and others felt that one of our previous National Committeewomen had precipitated un unprovoked attack on our congressional candidate. I announced publicly that I would bring a motion of censure to the SCC. This was difficult because I had personally campaigned for this person at the previous state convention. This turned into a pretty big issue, the blogs and even radio talk shows were abuzz with what was going to happen. There was a raucous crowd at the SCC meeting in Des Moines. Many people wanted this to be a roll call vote and were urging me to call for one. They wanted to use it as a way to put pressure on other members to support my call for censure. I am generally a pretty persuasive guy, had I called for a roll call with the gallery watching I am sure I would have prevailed. But I did not want to pressure other members to take a public stand. I felt compelled to do so personally but I wanted others to be free to vote their conscience. In the end the censure motion passed. The important part of that motion was not even the individual involved, rather it was a statement that the leaders of the party must support, or at the very least not attack those people that the party nominates. Failing to do so is to break faith with the grassroots. I was for supporting our candidates before it was cool.
Leadership matters. As I wrote in the beginning of this post, I ran for SCC because I was frustrated with the leadership choices made by the then seated committee. In 2012 I was one of only a couple of SCC members not to be swept out of office by a slate of people that took our state party by storm. They managed to stack our national convention delegates and control out state’s vote at the National Convention in Tampa and they affected a near total takeover of the state party. They elected their own officers and hired their own staff.
For two years I was part of the loyal opposition. Finally, I was the first SCC member to publicly, on WHO Radio’s Simon Conway Show, call for our party chairman to resign. Imagine my surprise when he actually did resign! He did not resign as a result of my calling for him to, it occurred some time later 🙂
After this group was swept out of office at the 2014 District Conventions, the lame duck SCC elected a chairman that they knew would be unacceptable to the incoming SCC. They essentially dared us to remove them.
As one of the few incumbent members, I helped organize the coup to remove the chair and co-chair. I volunteered to approach them privately and give them the opportunity to write their own exit narratives. Something like,
I was elected to maintain the party during this difficult transition and I am going to step aside and allow the new committee to elect a chairman. I am ready to spend more time with my family … it has been a pleasure to serve.
When in our first meeting the chairman proactively stated that he would not resign, it fell to me to publicly announce that we had the votes and he would be removed.
The current party leadership has far exceeded its fundraising goals, helped repair relationships with the counties and the national party and our electoral success speaks for itself. I was for a change in leadership before it was cool.
To be honest with you, the 2012 caucus was successful … right up until the time that we reported the results on caucus night. The results really were too close to call and we should have waited until a canvass of the official forms before declaring a winner. As it was we later had to declare a different winner.
After 2012, I served on the Caucus Review Committee. In particular, I chaired the technology subcommittee. If we are going to remain first-in-the-nation the 2016 caucuses had to be successful. Given the scrutiny we were under, good enough was not going to be good enough.
Almost all of the recommendations of the committee at large and the technology subcommittee were enacted and enabled us to have a hugely successful caucus even with a 50% increase statewide in participation. I was for technology in the caucuses before it was cool.
I am sharing this with you to let you know the results of eight years of your putting your trust in me to represent you in Des Moines. If I have any regrets it is that with the demands of my job, my family, my serving as a deacon and teacher in my church, I have not been able to visit the counties in the district as much as I would have liked to.
With the 2016 Convention season upon us, several people have asked whether I am planning on running for re-election. At eight years, I am the longest serving member of the SCC. I have accomplished much of what I set out to do on the committee. I have always run for SCC as a family values guy — it is time for me to exercise those family values and spend more time with my family. [See, I get to write my own exit narrative :)] Therefore, I have decided not to run for re-election to the State Central Committee.
Thank you so much for placing your faith and trust in me for these eight years, it has been my honor and pleasure to serve.