Lots of discord, dysfunction in state GOP parties

Oh, such a cross to bear

Oh, such a cross to bear

Plagued by infighting and deep ideological divisions, state Republican parties from Alaska to Maine are mired in dysfunction. Several state Republican leaders have been forced out or resigned in recent months, and many state GOP parties face financial problems and skeptical national leaders.

Democrats are not immune to such problems, but the conflicts on the Republican side highlight the tug of war over the GOP’s future as national leaders work to improve the party’s brand. At the same time, the Republican dysfunction raises questions about the GOP’s ability to coordinate political activities in key battleground states ahead of next year’s midterm congressional elections.

“There’s been a lot of division and disharmony in the Republican Party,” newly elected Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett told The Associated Press.

National GOP officials say help is on the way.

The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that it has hired a dozen state directors to work closely with state parties, the first major step in GOP Chairman Reince Priebus‘ plan to erase the long-standing political advantage Democrats enjoy in some states.

Maine Republicans elected Bennett last weekend following the sudden resignations of the state GOP’s top two officials. The former state Senate president inherited significant operating deficits and continued divisions between the party’s moderate and libertarian factions, just as high-profile campaigns for governor and the U.S. Senate are beginning to ramp up.

Maine Republicans are not alone.

The Illinois state GOP chairman resigned in May after party moderates clashed with social conservatives over the chairman’s support for gay marriage. The Alaska Republican Party is on its third chairman this year; party activists ousted the first two over fundraising concerns. The Minnesota GOP was without a chair for months early in the year and long has been troubled by financial issues.

And state parties in Nevada and Iowa are largely controlled by members of the GOP’s libertarian wing, a group that’s known for criticizing the very same Republican establishment leaders they’re supposed to be cooperating with heading into the 2014 campaign season. Problems have been lingering for much of the past year.

“The job of a state party is to attack Democrats and build an infrastructure that helps elect more Republicans to state and federal office,” said Ryan Williams, an aide to Mitt Romney’s 2012 GOP presidential campaign. Williams, who worked closely with state parties during last year’s campaign, said some “were so dysfunctional, mismanaged and crippled by infighting that national Republicans had to work around them and set up shadow organizations to build our ground game.”

Republicans note that Democratic state parties also have faced dysfunction in recent months.

Alabama’s state party has struggled to pay its bills and faced eviction earlier in the year, while Georgia’s Democratic Party chairman resigned last month after being reprimanded by the state Supreme Court.

For Republicans in Maine and elsewhere, there are signs of improvement as more experienced political leaders take over for enthusiastic newcomers who have, in some cases, struggled with fundraising and logistics required to coordinate statewide political organizations.

The Republican National Committee is working to strengthen the state operations as well.

Priebus on Wednesday announced the addition of state-level directors in 12 states: California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Their tasks include working with state parties to coordinate campaign efforts, planning GOP events across their states and collecting voter data, according to the RNC, which has more than 125 staffers already spread across the states, with many more hires expected by the end of the year.

“We’re building the most expansive field program the GOP has ever seen, and we’re doing it earlier than ever before,” Priebus said. “Our state directors will play key roles in building a permanent field operation to be successful in elections this year, in 2014, in 2016 and beyond.”

The first wave of hires is focused where the party faces high-profile elections in 2013 and 2014. Both Virginia and New Jersey feature gubernatorial contests this fall. And with the U.S. Senate majority at stake, Republicans are eyeing 2014 pickup opportunities in Montana, West Virginia and Louisiana.

In some states where new directors have yet to be hired, acute problems remain.

In Iowa, for example, the state GOP apparatus has become a reflection of the party’s bitterly divided factions. Led by followers of libertarian-minded Ron Paul, the state party organization has quarreled with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and disputed his strategy for state government and party affairs.

The stakes are high in Iowa, where the GOP has an opportunity to win the U.S. Senate seat long occupied by Democrat Tom Harkin, who is not seeking re-election.

In Minnesota, Republicans have been salivating to unseat two Democratic incumbents, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. But Republicans there are at their weakest political point in more than 30 years. They hold no major offices, are in the minority of both legislative chambers and haven’t won a statewide election since Tim Pawlenty secured a second term as governor in 2006. Their candidate for Senate in 2012 mustered a bare 30 percent of the vote.

The Minnesota GOP has endured leadership shake-ups. Strife between old-guard members and Paul adherents lingers. And the GOP is struggling to get out from under a mountain of debt.

In Maine, Republicans are working to retain the governor’s seat, although Gov. Paul LePage is expected to face a challenging re-election in a state that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also faces re-election next year, although a serious challenger has yet to emerge.

“The Republican Party in Maine — and certainly in other states — is going through a period of redefinition,” Bennett said. “I think people are ready to move beyond that and to find common ground within the party.”

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Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin in Maine, Brian Bakst in Minnesota and Thomas Beaumont in Iowa contributed to this report.
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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

 

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One Response to "Lots of discord, dysfunction in state GOP parties"

  1. Sandy Price  July 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    My goodness, how could I have been so unaware of the power of white supremacy groups in my youth? My youth was a hell of a long time ago.

    Coming from the very roots of the Mormon Church should have prepared me for the environment in today’s political power movement. It was explained to me that the church (LDS) did not approve of races intermarrying. My grandparents joined an all white beach club in Santa Monica and it wasn’t until I entered public school where a lot of black kids shared our class rooms. When our beaches were closed due to a Polio breakout, we were allowed to swim at the Del Mar pool. This was close enough to allow us all to bicycle down the California incline and swim there. I remember asking a friend of mine (black) to swim with us and she was thrilled. Down we went, got into our swimming suits and just before going into the pool, we saw a sign “No black swimmers.” I handed her our towels and said we would not be long. It took me 30 minutes to realize the situation and we all got out of the pool and rode home. The shock of this terrible action on my part has stayed with me all these years. I questioned my grandmother who shrugged it off.

    All the girls private schools where I was tested were for white only. I asked about this to one of my teachers and she explained that the area of Santa Monica/Beverly Hills had three private schools for girls. Marlborough attracted the blue blood of California (like Bell of BelAire) and was very, very social in its training. Marymount was where the Catholic girls went and Westlake picked up the wealthy Jewish Studio people. The three schools financed a social group that did fund-raising for the Children’s hospitals in the area. I knew many of the gals from my days on the beach and associated with the yacht races.

    Today Westlake and Harvard mixed and all colors and religions are mingled together. I did not accept segregation then and I certainly do not accept it now! By the time I had read through the Westlake/UCLA libraries I realized that racism is the ugliest attitude found in America or anywhere. I also was able to see where the churches were segregated. If my family thought I would learn from this, they underrated my ability to know right from wrong.

    The GOP is an introduction to racism in America. It use to make me very sad that years of learning about African Americans and Latinos did nothing to wake up the core of these different people. Now we can add Homophobia to the list of the GOP. Even the Bell Curve is back and being used to prove that people of color will never make it to the top of the curve.

    We must preach equality to our own children because nothing in America will do it properly.

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