I retired this year after serving four terms representing the old 2nd and new 1st Districts on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. It has been my privilege to serve these last eight years. When I decided not to run for a fifth term several rumors got started. Some said I was resigning to mount another campaign for National Committeeman. Others suggested that I wanted to be RPI Chairman or Co-Chairman. Still others said that I was planning a coup and I wanted to be Linn County GOP Chairman. Well, none of those are true.
The truth is much more prosaic. Between the responsibilities of my new job, a leadership position in my church, some health issues in my family, and two kids still in high school — I realized that I did not have enough time to fulfill my responsibilities to the district. My friend Chelle Adkins sets a high bar for SCC members in the First District, she is at county meetings or events practically every day. She listens to people in the counties and is a tireless advocate for the district. After eight years it was time to give someone else a chance.
From my first campaign, I have promised,
I don’t want to be 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!
Those of you in the First District can judge whether I have kept this promise.
One advantage of being retired is that I no longer feel that I need to parse my words carefully on this blog. At this week’s SCC meeting an issue came up that, had I been there, I would have fought against vigorously! It has to do with the relationship between the counties and the state party (RPI). It has to do with the faith and trust that counties place in the RPI. It has to do with RPI keeping its promises. It has to do with RPI supporting the counties.
Now, before I get into detail I should probably note that I am from Linn County. I have been a member of the Linn County Republican Central Committee for over twenty years. And for those of you in the rest of the state, I know that my county has a reputation. We have our own internal strife and often that strife has affected our relationship with RPI.
The issue in question is the caucus lists. That is the information (name and contact information)of those who attended the caucuses. The following is from page 11 of the 2016 County Chair Caucus Manual from RPI.
Work with your RPI Regional Field Director to establish a plan for returning ALL caucus forms and materials to RPI IN PERSON within 24 hours of the precinct caucuses. NO TEMPORARY CAUCUS CHAIRS, SECRETARIES, OR POLL REPORTERS SHOULD POSSES CAUCUS FORMS OR MATERIALS AFTER THE CAUCUSES CONCLUDE ON FEBRUARY 1st.
NOTE: The state party will return to the county a list of persons who attended each caucus in the county.
Like all of our counties, Linn County worked to get the forms turned in to RPI as soon as possible after the caucuses. Some people wanted to copy the caucus ‘sign-in ‘ sheets but they were told that ‘RPI would give us the information after the caucus.’
Imagine my surprise last week when at the county central committee meeting people were complaining that we had not yet gotten the list from RPI. I said,
Don’t worry, RPI will give us the list. Ask your new SCC reps to help expedite the process!
Then I was told that RPI had reneged on their promise and was not going to give us the list! I heard that at this weekend’s meeting this issue came up and after quite a bit of discussion, the SCC agreed to give [
the lists to the counties in paper form! edited DC] the counties a list of first time caucus-goers in paper form.
This may work for some smaller counties, but in Linn County we had a caucus night turnout of over 11,000! In paper form, this would be a good sized phone book. This much data, in paper format will be all but useless!!!
Now you may ask, why does Linn County need the caucus attendee list? I can give an example, for this caucus, it was my responsibility to coordinate volunteer recruitment for 11 precincts. After getting volunteers from the County Central Committee, the next best resource was the lists of past caucus attendees. I pored over the lists for my eleven precincts. I called everyone on the lists that I knew personally. I even had my kids look for parents of their classmates, teammates, friends, etc. Finally, I looked for those who had attended multiple caucuses and cold called them. Eventually I found my volunteers. I could not have done it without the caucus lists.
This is just one example of how counties can and do use the lists. This would not have been possible for the 86 precincts of Linn County if we’d had only paper lists. Yes, I understand that these lists are valuable (financially) to RPI. But they are also valuable to the counties as a tool to help get Republican elected up and down the ticket.
This action on the part of RPI is very shortsighted. One thing I have learned about this party is that RPI staffers, SCC members, and chairmen come and go. Depending on how you count it, I was the second or third longest serving SCC member, after National Committeeman Steve Scheffler (who’s first term was during the Taft administration) and Loras Schulte (Loras has served more terms but not consecutively). The counties are the backbone of this party, they are the grassroots, they are where the phone calling, door knocking, sign posting and GOTV efforts happen. And they have long memories.
I can guarantee that the next time we have a contested caucus (in eight years I hope) there will be voices in Linn County who will call for us to not return the lists to RPI until we have copied them or converted them to electronic form. Now, as a technologist, I hope the lists are all electronic by then but if not there will be issues! Since we are Linn County there will even be some voices calling for the county to not give the information to RPI at all 🙁
In previous public comments I have said that I leave the state party in good hands. The party is in excellent financial shape, the party is working closely with the RNC, there are many great things going on at RPI. But if the party is not responsive to the needs of the counties, if the party will not even keep its promises to the counties– perhaps I was hasty in choosing to leave at this time 🙁
RPI needs to keep its promise to the counties. RPI needs to support the counties. RPI needs to stop treating the counties as vassals and start treating them as partners.
RPI needs to make the lists available to counties that want it in electronic form!