CCRP Elections: Kenny Smith and Brenda Poletti Prevail

Posted: February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

Last night, the Clark County Republican Party held a special election to replace Lynda Wilson and Steve Nelson for their Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  In the chairman race, Kenny Smith, the current 18th Legislative District Chair, was opposed by Thomas Hann, a former candidate for freeholder in last November’s election. The Vice-Chairman race featured current board member Brenda Poletti and Tani Zarelli, the wife of former LD 18 State Senator Joe Zarelli.

Hann is well known in the party, having been on the executive board with Brandon Vick during the last presidential election cycle and again under Stephanie McClintock’s short tenure as party chairwoman, where he served under the title ‘Political Director’. He has also recently been on the board of the local chapter of ‘We the People’, although it is unclear whether this group is still operating, having apparently disbanded for lack of participation shortly after Lynda Wilson and Steve Nelson left to head up the CCRP.

Leading up to the election, it had been rumored that Jaime Herrera’s District Director, Ryan Hart, was searching frantically for an establishment-friendly candidate to replace Lynda Wilson, making inquries about current PCO lists and contact information. Given the CCRP executive board’s open letter in October chiding Herrera for her willingness to vote against the majority of Republicans and raise the debt ceiling yet again, Team Herrera apparently sensed in Wilson’s departure an opportunity to realign the board in their own image. Phone calls went all over the county asking PCOs who had not been to a meeting since 2012 to show up and vote for the Hann/Zarelli slate in order to achieve ‘Party Unity’. For some reason, ‘Party Unity’ always seems to involve shutting out Liberty folks and letting the Establishment moderates take control of stuff.

Some observations from a very interesting evening:

1. In his speech, Tom Hann spoke about how the recent city council results were ‘unacceptable’, a common sentiment among Republicans, and one that those who are no longer in control of the party have used to criticize the current board. On the other hand, Tani Zarelli told anyone who would listen that the local Republican party should stay completely out of nonpartisan races. Her nominator, Micheline Doan, happily accepted $500 from the local party in her failed bid for Vancouver City Council. The impression from this observer was that perhaps Hann and Zarelli were not completely on the same page in terms of approach or leadership philosophy.

2. Interesting to see the stark contrast in speeches. Tani Zarelli dropped the names of as many local luminaries as possible in her five allotted minutes, even letting the audience know that she used to live next to Linda Smith. She also mentioned having met Kings in Israel who think that the Republican party is all screwed up. She referred to her own strategic abilities, having worked on campaigns for her husband and others. Brenda Poletti, on the other hand, spoke primarily about her work at the grass roots level, how her team had vastly increased the number of convention delegates and PCOs in the county in the last two years, which in turn led to more participation and higher returns at the Lincoln Day Dinner and other fundraisers, and more candidates from among the PCO ranks than had been seen in previous elections, even citing a quote from the Columbian to that effect. Both spoke about bringing people together and the important work that PCOs had to do, but Brenda underscored developing relationships with PCOs and other volunteers and keeping them involved, and Tani focused more on ‘getting into the minds of legislators and how they operate’. The clear difference between the ‘Top-Down’ and ‘Bottom-Up’ models was made readily manifest. Unfortunately for Tani, over half the voting body at the meeting were PCO Liberty Alliance participants who had campaigned for months on the importance of giving power to the PCOs.

3. The vote totals were slightly closer in this election than at the Organization meeting, both races tallying an 84-55 vote. The Wilson and Nelson team prevailed against Dan Barnes and Stephanie McClintock by a margin of 102-59. The small difference may be attributed to more aggressive phone calling by Hart, Barnes, and Co. this time around (even Sheriff Gary Lucas showed up for the first time since he was elected PCO), as well as the choice of a bonafide Tea Party candidate to run against a former leader in the Ron Paul presidential campaign. Ultimately, the team that had actually spent the hours working with the PCOs prevailed over the team that hadn’t. A great example of the advantage of following a grass-roots-oriented model.

4. Contrary to the opinions expressed elsewhere these elections did not fundamentally change the orientation of the board, since both of the victors were already board members, and each board member only gets one vote. Based on their speeches, I suspect that Hann and Zarelli themselves were unaware that even had they won, they would not have controlled the direction of the executive board, any more than Steve Stuart controlled the County Commissioner board as the minority vote. The openings that have now been created for LD 18 and LD 49 chairs will be more significant in that regard, but again, the PCOs in those districts are likely to choose someone who has put in some time with them rather than taking on a plant from Team Herrera. The bottom line is that if you like the direction that the old board was going in, there isn’t likely to be much change. The idea that has been advanced by local bloggers that somehow Lynda and Steve were like Nehemiah, building the wall with one hand and warding off the Samaritan ‘Paulbots’ on the board with the other is patently ridiculous. This board was elected together for a common goal. They ran as a team, supported each other, and that support continues even as Lynda leaves, as evidenced by her enthusiastic nomination speech on Brenda Poletti’s behalf at last night’s election. There is no ‘grand Paulbot conspiracy’, Lew.

Ultimately, the election was good for the party as it provided legitimacy to the newly elected officers, and the comfortable margin of victory will also help Kenny and Brenda move forward with the clear will of the PCOs behind them. As Kenny pointed out in his speech, the term before the next election is only 11 months long, and they will be a busy 11 months that should pass by quickly. Godspeed to the new board, and to Lynda Wilson as she attempts to gain a seat that has been in Democrat hands since 2008.

**EDIT**
Lew Waters appears to have taken the post down in which he bemoaned the fact that a former Ron Paul supporter was now the party chairman shortly after I linked it. Apologies for the dead link. The irrational hatred of Liberty supporters continues…

***EDIT #2***
…And now the post is back up again.

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Comments
  1. Frank Decker says:

    Excellent synopsis.The self-proclaimed aristocracy in the county party really need to get over themselves. And those bloggers you mention? Well, the reality is for KJ and Lew no one is ever going to be good enough. I guess there are those that talk (blog) and those that walk. We all know which brand Kenny and Brenda are. A great win for the current and future CCRP last night.

  2. lewwaters says:

    Sorry if my exercising my own liberty irks you all so much. I guess liberty only applies to you all?

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