Friday, January 05, 2007

David Gaither: back to the future

Life after politics so far for David Gaither, former state Senator and chief of staff to Governor Tim Pawlenty, has included a vacation in Arizona; weighing job offers; plans for more family time, golf, and fishing; an assessment of Republican accomplishments over the past four years; and mulling over what it would take to regain a conservative majority in the Legislature and Congress.

In short, Gaither may be out, but he's not down.

Gaither was elected to the Minnesota Senate in the Republican sweep of 2002. He won the party endorsement over the "moderate" incumbent Republican Martha Roberston as a strong conservative. His signature conservative achievement as a Senator was the 2003 passage (and defense against a subsequent legal challenge in 2005) of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act, which simultaneously strengthened Second Amendment rights and put more specific restrictions on the so-called "concealed carry" of firearms in Minnesota.

Gaither looked at his efforts in support of the bill as no less than keeping his oath as a Senator to defend the United States and Minnesota constitutions. Whenever he needed some perspective, he visited Fort Snelling National Cemetery and thought about the Minnesotans in uniform defending the Constitution and our country. What he did was easy in comparison their sacrifices, Gaither told me over the telephone this week.

In 2005, Gaither was appointed Governor Pawlenty's chief of staff, leaving an open seat in SD 43. DFLer Terri Bonoff won the seat by just under 9 percentage points in a special election, and kept it by just under 4 points in the general election of 2006, both times defeating former Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson.

Republicans will never regain the majority, Gaither said, as a "fractured" party. Like it or not, the "no new taxes" pledge from the Taxpayers League of Minnesota simply differentiated conservatives and liberals, giving voters a clear choice. Gaither cited Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" as another example of a clearly stated set of principles that voters could understand and support.

I agree, the Republican party needs to rebuild its brand. Unapologetic conservatives like U.S. Representative-elect Michele Bachmann (MN-6) and Minnesota Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) won in '06.

Demographics will favor the shrinking of government in the near future, Gaither pointed out. Some 45% of government workers are approaching retirement age, a trend that Gaither sees as a prime opportunity to make government smaller, cost less, and work better. He wondered, why not set a "landing a man on the moon"-like goal of making government services available 24/7, with 25% fewer employees, and 100% customer satisfaction?

Beyond a message or clearly stated set of core values, Republicans will need candidates with vision and the means to get the message out to the public, Gaither said.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Good perspective - perhaps a run for Governor isn't out the question for David Gaither in 2010?

lloydletta said...

The Bachmann theocratic brand of "conservativism" isn't going to fly in the western suburbs. Bachmann won against Patty Wetterling, who had name recognition, but didn't campaign hard enough, or smart enough to win. Even her supporters thought her campaign was appalling.