Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rebooting the RPM

Andy Aplikowski at Residual Forces is talking some tough love about the 2006 election cycle. Andy is the BPOU chair of the Senate District 51 Republicans, a fellow grassroots activist, a true believer and one of the rabble like me. He is alarmed at the performance of Republicans (candidates, leadership, activists, and voters) in recent special elections, notably the Ek Train Wreck in Saint Cloud, and I would add the disappointing voter turnout and outcome of the SD 43 special election.

Andy cites three main concerns:
  • Incumbent Republican legislators vacating their seats for other opportunities
  • Stronger ground game of the DFL (although I would call Andy's characterization of "well-oiled machine" debatable)
  • Lack of party unity under a strong leader

These legislators have stepped up to new opportunities in 2005: the former Sen. David Gaither (R-Plymouth) is now Governor Pawlenty's chief of staff; former Sen. Dave Kleis (R-St. Cloud) is now the mayor of Saint Cloud; and former Sen. Mark Ourada (R-Buffalo) is now vice president for external relations for the Center for Energy and Economic Development. Rep. Jeff Johnson (R-Plymouth) is running for Minnesota Attorney General this year.

Today, Gaither's and Kleis's seats have moved to the DFL side of the aisle, while Senator elect Amy Koch keeps Ourada's seat on the R side. "Triple A" says that the party needs to stop the "bleeding" of legislative resignations:
First off, we cannot have our sitting office holders quit, retire, or move on to other/higher offices. We cannot afford to lose one more seat. IÂ’m betting that in the 6th CD one of the 3 candidates who currently hold a spot in the State Legislature will get the nod, and likely be the next Congressperson. That will be another seat lost. Jeff Johnson is running for AG, he could be another lost seat. There are other Republicans thinking of or committed to retiring. We are in serious trouble folks.

The fact is, the strongest in any field will move up and out — and we need them to. Would we be better off as Republicans had Tim Pawlenty stayed a legislator rather than run for Governor? Or Norm Coleman not run for U.S. Senate? Of course this puts pressure on the BPOUs to pull someone off the bench to defend an open seat, and sometimes the seat is lost. I admit to feeling a combination of pride and terror when I first heard about David Gaither's resignation. But a ban on legislative resignations would never work. Instead, the party needs to develop the mythical "deep bench" of candidates who can step forward when a vacancy arises.

Improving the ground game at the BPOU level is something over which we have a little more control. Hopefully, BPOU executive committees are meeting now to assess past performance and gear up for a year of growing the party, planning strategy, and executing on the fundamentals of voter ID and 72-hour (election day) operations.

Regarding leadership, it's a safe bet that The Governor will soon be in full campaign mode for his own re-election. Whether he can find the right balance of rallying his conservative base and appealing to Minnesota's populist instincts ("We need a governor who goes to Sam's Club, not just the country club") remains to be seen.


triplea said...

Good points about having a deep bench. But I am worried about so many people moving up, especially to appointed positions. We have a tiny lead in the House, and are already behind in the Senate, we can't afford to lose any of them.

There have to be good people from outside of elected office to fill appointments and vacancies.

What I want more than anything is to have an inspiring person (in or out of office) to be the inspirational voice for us. Some one that would inspire more people to get involved at all levels, and thus replenish the thin field of worthy people we have.

I hope the Guv continues to mend fences with the right base, but we may need some one else, at another position, to be the voice I speak of. Be it a Party leader, elected official, or just an activist, some one needs to be there to speak for the ENTIRE Republican side.

lloydletta said...

Part of the problem is that the years of trying to drive out moderates (Kiscaden, Dean Johnson, Judi Dutcher, Martha Robertson) has ended up hurting the party.

It's not just voter id and targeting - because in the age of the internet, you can't count on your targetted message staying with your target. So the challenge is to articulate a Republican vision (and that isn't posting endless screen shots of word document properties - which is what MDE does).