I was at the Jefferson County Republican Party Central Committee meeting this evening. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of drama (but a wonderful deal of hot dog, chips, and bottled water for $2). Special guest speeches were made by state senate minority leader Josh Penry and Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams. I was told the Arapahoe County GOP meeting was at the same time, which may have prevented us from being greeted by more ambitious politicos.
Don Ytterberg was elected by acclamation to be the new chairman. Tina Francone was elected by acclamation to be the new secretary. The only contest was for vice-chair – as current vice-chair Art Onweller lost to outgoing chair Renee Nelson. God bless her, Renee has been a fantastic leader for our county party the past four years, and she received a well-deserved round of applause when she handed over the gavel. By stepping back into the number two position, she will be able to take some of the pressure off her tremendously busy schedule while providing enormously helpful continuity to the incoming leader.
Don Ytterberg was the Republican candidate for Senate District 16 in the last election, and by all accounts ran a hard-fought and commendable campaign. While I would prefer to be calling him Senator Ytterberg now, I wish Chairman Ytterberg well and hope to see him and Renee pay close heed to El Presidente’s advice, which he gave along with a helpful roundup of various other county meetings:
“Turning out the base” has run its course in the Colorado GOP, and as Denver GOP Treasurer Kelly Maher indicated, the party needs to “maximize” its presence everywhere. Reinvigorating Republican voters who have been ignored recently or who have chosen to sit on their hands for any of a variety of reasons will be a top priority. This maximization strategy will obviously extend to returning independent voters (a bloc that has exploded in registration since 2004) to the GOP and particularly those that lean to the center-right, who have either stopped voting for Republican candidates or have actually moved into the Democrats’ column over the last decade. And with a probable continuation of the raft of Amendments that have become a biannual ballot challenge, conservatives need to work together on those issues that are not overtly partisan. Transparency is not a Republican or conservative issue, but a good government and accountability issue. Better aggregate turnout percentages are key, and continuing to abandon areas in Denver or elsewhere will not make the task any easier.
None of this will be possible, however, if the party reverts to infighting rather than looking to the base principles of free markets, individual liberty and responsibility, and limited government, and creating policy initiatives instead of becoming a “party of no.” Even if the candidates themselves try to remain above the fray, rivalries among the party activists and operatives will slow the party’s exit from the wilderness. We know that the key domestic issues will focus on the economy and job creation, and fighting the awful stimulus and pork packages and other Democrat-inspired legislation will continue to be hot-button topics nationally, and some of the same bread-and-butter legislation and rhetoric will be a priority here in Colorado. GOP primaries should be focused on these factors, and not on candidates trying to out-Reagan one another, or devolving into an exercise of “more-conservative-than-thou” mudslinging. The Democrats should provide enough electoral fodder on these issues to last several cycles, and will give the Republicans their clearest path to victory.
Republicans can and should continue the conversation about overall campaign strategies and highly targeted tactics in particular areas. Republicans and their donors also need to figure out how to make use of social networking and new media [editor’s comment: our new Jeffco county chair needs to get on Facebook] and better integrate the tools into their campaigns, but even potentially look to leapfrog the left (as success may breed stagnation for Democrats, and failure can only provide opportunity for Republicans). Success in 2010 will necessitate a concerted effort of allied individuals committed to the common principles outlined above. Candidates and elected officials are certainly fair game and should not be above scrutiny; however, applying preemptive preclusionary tactics to fellow party activists smacks of ideological narcissism and a failure to draw better conclusions from the electoral results of the last few years. Let’s focus on the 95% common ground we share, and agree to disagree on the other 5%.
Amen to that. Unity was the theme tonight at the Jeffco GOP meeting. I am hopeful that these sentiments are beginning to take hold.
(There were other races for bonus members and vacancy committees. After pitching in to help Matt Knoedler with all the paper balloting for the teller committee, I didn’t stick around to get all those other results. But congratulations and best of luck to all those who won.)