Wilbur Resigns; Should Christian Berrigan be Drafted to Run for WSRP Chair?

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

In a surprising development, Kirby Wilbur, who only recently was elected for a second term as Washington State Republican Party chairman, has resigned his post in favor of a higher-paying job with Young America in Washington D.C.  Few in the Liberty movement will miss Wilbur, who was notorious for doing his utmost to quell any kind of grass roots uprising in the party. From illegally reconvening the Kitsap County convention last year for the purpose of electing an all-Romney slate, to using WSRP funds to help non-Liberty PCO candidates in their campaigns, Wilbur’s attempts to shut out conservatives and keep the moderates in power predictably led to a complete thrashing at the hands of the Democrats in last year’s elections. Wilbur leaves only a few months after shutting down the 2014 State Convention in favor of a ‘training conference’ somewhere in Eastern Washington, the planning of which he now leaves to his successor.

The predictable slate of King County Establishment candidates to replace Wilbur has already surfaced, including King County chair Lori Sotelo, and former news anchorwoman and failed King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison. Neither of these options signals a change in direction for a party that faces further drubbings and a possible shift in the Senate after next year’s elections. It seems obvious that new blood is needed in the worst way.

So here is my thought.

Elect Christian Berrigan.

Oh yes, some will say I am off my rocker, that Berrigan has no state-wide resume, that he hails from a small, southern Washington county, and that he will never be able to raise the money necessary to run the State Party. Let me just call attention to what he has accomplished in the last 15 months:

When I first met Christian at the Clark County GOP convention last March, he knew very few of the delegates there. He had, however, quickly recognized the divide-and-conquer strategy that the Romney campaign was employing to great effect with the ‘Unity Slate’, and although he did not support Ron Paul, he saw that the Paul delegates were being wrongfully maligned and shut out of the process. After our first round of balloting in the 17th LD, all of the Santorum delegates on the slate were elected, and no Paul delegates had reached a majority of votes. As one of the leaders of the Paul campaign in that district, my heart had completely sunk, knowing that, now that they were elected, we had absolutely no leverage with the Santorum group, several of whom had already told me they had no intention of voting with us. Immediately, Christian took it upon himself to stand up on a chair with no microphone and persuade these same Santorum supporters that they had been deceived; that the Paul people were not the back-stabbing double-dealers that the Romney camp had made them out to be, and that the faithfulness we had shown to them on the first ballot ought to be reciprocated. I watched people I knew had previously voted against us nodding their head in agreement and vote for Paul delegates on the second ballot. Christian had an innate skill in identifying the truth and explaining it to others in clear, concise terms. The next day, the leaders of both camps got together to debrief, and all anyone could talk about was Christian and his amazing presence of mind and leadership. Nobody knew him or where he came from, but everybody was talking about him.

It was with great surprise then, that I got an email from him days later. He was full of energy and ideas about how to get the remaining 17 seats in our district filled with those who had received the highest votes on ballot number two, the final ballot we completed. He wrote up a very impressive brief to the CCRP Executive board, and eventually was granted an audience at their next board meeting. Every person on that board had been proudly wearing a ‘Unity’ sticker on convention day, but somehow he convinced them to vote in favor of ‘the 17 of the 17th’ being seated, despite the fact that 14 of the 17 were Ron Paul supporters, and none supported Romney. He even managed to get the highest vote-getter from the Romney camp, Senator Don Benton, to write a strong letter to the board recommending that we get seated. Only Brandon Vick and Greg Kimsey voted against us. The fact that our applications and checks were later ignored by Kirby Wilbur and returned unopened to us did not detract from the fact that Christian had accomplished an amazing feat by bringing all of those people together to do the right thing.

After this, Christian and I spoke regularly and became fast friends. I told him of our idea to run a number of candidates from the 17th LD for PCO to try to make inroads into the Establishment’s monopoly in the party, and he blew my mind by suggesting that we run a County-wide public campaign. He contacted some like-minded people from the convention who, like us, were outraged at the party’s tactics at the convention, as well as the incompetent way it was run. We all met at Burgerville and I suddenly found myself talking with people who had heretofore viewed me with suspicion and mistrust. We found much common ground and began working together to develop our recruiting strategy. Thus was born the PCO Liberty Alliance, a name which Christian himself coined. I told him that using the word ‘Liberty’ might be a problem for those who didn’t support Ron Paul, but he could not have cared less. Instead of the failed strategy that had been used in past elections by Paul people to run for PCO by stealth so as not to attract party funds to the race, he wanted a very public campaign with elements of several groups rather than just Paul people. He wanted overwhelming numbers of candidates so that the party elite could not focus on just a few. He wanted to unite several groups of conservatives under one banner.

The strategy not only worked, it worked overwhelmingly. I have never seen teamwork in my life like what I witnessed over those summer months last year. My house became campaign headquarters for the PCO Liberty Alliance, and numerous people I had never met were soon working, eating, and sharing their stories with us. The former looks of suspicion melted away and were replaced by strong friendship and trust. Christian and his friend Mark Engleman brought people in to our group that I would never have even spoken to, some, even, that were openly hostile to Paul delegates at the convention. We found that we had much in common, and we began to realize that there was a lot we could reform in our party if we worked together. Christian was going everywhere making speeches, detailing strategy, and recruiting. We started with the Paul supporters in our network that Kenny Smith and Trevor Winton spent untold hours recruiting, and worked our way out into Samaria and all the world. Soon, even a few from the old board were with us.

I recount these events because, while Christian did not do it all by himself, he was the one who made sure it all happened. He worked tirelessly, infusing energy in the Paul leadership who were already exhausted from several months of full-time campaigning before the conventions. Without Christian, we never would have dared to think on such a wide scale. There were friends of mine walking out of meetings telling me that they thought he was crazy, promising to make signs, campaign literature, business cards and slim jims, and get media attention for PCO races…the ideas seemed preposterous. Every one of them happened. He asked for $100 from each candidate, many gave him double or triple that amount, even those who had no competitor. We ended up with recruits for about 80% of the precincts in the entire county. Half of those won without an opponent, because the Establishment, despite their best efforts and superior network, simply could not keep up with us and our energy to reform the party. Between our recruiting and Christian and Mark evangelizing the message, the old guard had no answer for us. A few of their more vitriolic leaders even quit the party altogether. The PCOLA candidates won with overwhelming numbers .

One of the more amazing accomplishments of that campaign was the media attention Christian was able to attract. He kept coming up with ideas. Reporters told us that they had never covered PCO races before, but now we regularly found pieces about our efforts in the news. One of Christian’s ideas was to catch one of the people who were stealing our signs in East Vancouver. We bought a camera and planted it near one of the signs for future party chair Lynda Wilson, and the very next morning, we caught John Ellis-Reisdorf red-handed. It was all over the papers and the six-o-clock news on multiple channels. Another time, Christian had signs made up resembling orange construction signs warning people to prepare for tolls to cross the river if they didn’t vote for David Madore. The response was amazing, not only on the streets, but also all over the media. It had the same effect as thousands of dollars of advertising and had social media buzzing for several weeks. The number of shares that the Columbian article got dwarfed anything in their news cycle that week.

Christian’s  tenure on the Clark County GOP Executive Board has been marked by an extraordinary increase in volunteerism. He has been instrumental in providing a vision and motivation for many who had given up on the party completely. Recently, the CCRP put on the most lucrative Lincoln Day dinner in the state, netting over $50,000 in profit. We are also experiencing unprecedented levels of CCRP participation in elections for City Councils and School Boards, which the Columbian has also noted :

The Clark County Republican Party has become increasingly involved in local races.

In each of the last two off-year elections, 2009 and 2011, three sitting precinct committee officers ran for nonpartisan positions, two Republicans and a Democrat each time. PCOs, as they are known, are elected every two years and serve as grass-roots organizers for the parties. This year, eight PCOs — all Republicans — are running for city councils, school boards and a fire commission seat.

One of these PCOs, Frank Decker, has stated that he first got the urge to get involved in local politics after reading one of Christian’s PCO Liberty Alliance sign last year. At the time, we were mocked by a few in the old guard because the signs said that ‘the most powerful office in the country is PCO’. Apparently, Frank wasn’t laughing. He is now running a strong and energetic bid for Vancouver City Council.

The culture in the CCRP is now such that people are shedding their apathy and jumping on board a movement that promises to make a serious difference in local politics. This is the culture that Christian has been promoting these many months. He has already floated many ideas for state-wide efforts, and if he were elected as WSRP chair, he would be in a better position to implement them. Imagine, a party chair with a pulse who, instead of trying to dictate  and control members and shut out entire swaths of conservatives, actually has plans to increase the profile and participation in the party!  Imagine a chairman who would welcome the Liberty movement with open arms instead of spending all his time trying to ward off the future of the party. A grass roots candidate for a change, rather than yet another Establishment toadie.

To a party that lost every important state-wide race in 2012, I ask: what have you got to lose?

  1. Katja Delavar says:

    Great choice but does he even want the position, Dan?

    • Katja, I think that wanting the position and agreeing to run are different issues. I can’t speak for Christian, but I believe he salivates at the idea of bringing his approach to the state level, but he is no doubt also worried about leaving the county party in the lurch – a valid concern. This is probably a little bit sooner than he had intended to think about this, but he would clearly be a great choice, and the names that are coming up in the media are so uninspiring and actually detrimental to the party in terms of generating enthusiasm for the next election cycle (Lori Sotelo, Alex Hays, Susan Hutchison, Dino Rossi, etc), that I believe Christian needs to run NOW. We’ll see what he says soon.

  2. kenny smith says:

    A beautiful summary & tribute to a great motivational force overflowing with ideas to advance the party. Christian would get this party moving, that is for sure. Whether people could keep up with him is the question. I would love to give it a try.

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