Local Media Spin: Is it Curtains for the PCO Reform Movement?

Posted: August 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

In the wake of last week’s primary election, a couple of articles came out in local papers covering the PCO races (seen here and here ). In both articles, the headlines trumpeted that the ‘moderate’ or ‘mainstream’ Republicans had been victorious over their grass roots counterparts. A sampling:

Moderate Republicans win primary round at precinct level

Grass-roots control of local GOP to continue?

The battle for the future of the Clark County Republican Party has been waged in neighborhoods across the county in the past couple of months. In this round of the ongoing war, the establishment Republicans declared victory. ” – Lauren Dake, The Columbian

and this:

“Mainstream” Republicans hold on to most PCO seats

Mainstream” Republicans largely beat back more conservative contenders in this week’s election of the Cowlitz County precinct committee officers (PCOs), according to unofficial primary results. Just seven of the 25 competitive candidates backed by PCO Liberty Alliance won a spot on the grassroots steering committee of the local GOP.” -Brooks Johnson,The Daily News

After reading these articles, one might easily come to the conclusion that the efforts by such operatives as Mary Graham, Apollo Fuhriman, and Team Herrera-Beutler to recruit PCOs and return the party safely to the Establishment fold had been successful. One might expect that in December, Ed Lynch and other rent-seeking Chamber-of-Commerce members would emerge and start donating money to a more light-rail-friendly CCRP leadership again, one that Jim Moeller would happily ‘reach across the aisle’ to work with, and this business of writing resolutions warning Republicans to stick to the party platform of small government and less spending would finally be just a bad memory for the Moderate contingent. It would be forgivable if anyone were to draw this conclusion from Lauren Dake’s piece. It would also be dead wrong.

Since there are only two or three readers of this blog, and since I know you can all keep a secret, I can tell you that despite Ms. Dake’s confident assertion that “the establishment Republicans declared victory”, the moderates did not win the primary. The ‘bulk of Republican contested PCO seats’ were not won by the Establishment, and their only victory is that they get to continue to participate in a welcoming party that calls more than one meeting a year, and doesn’t pick favorites in primaries, or use party funds in excess of $5000 to pay for mailers in favor of some PCO candidates over others. So in that way, I guess maybe the moderates won after all?

In reality, the Clark County primary elected about 190 Republican Precinct Committee Officers. The vast majority of these, over 140, were uncontested and therefore ‘deemed elected’ without appearing on the ballot. So while the 42 races were interesting to mark in terms of results, they were really less than 25% of the actual PCO election, and though they came out fairly close to even for both sides (there are always a few unknown candidates in the middle who are not attached to a particular group), the other 75% was NOT CLOSE to even. The real story, the one that should have been printed, is that this movement toward a more PCO-centered party has some serious legs and doesn’t look to be in danger at all. In fact, it may soon be spreading to a neighboring county.

Cowlitz County Party Leaders Getting Nervous?

In Cowlitz County, a new chapter of the PCO Liberty Alliance has sprung up to challenge the moderates who have a choke-hold over the county Republican party. The situation is so bad there, I have been told that a conservative Republican, David Steenson, was effectively shown the door by the party, despite the lack of a Republican in the race, so he ran instead as a Libertarian. The party chairman has also reportedly refused to allow PCOs to elect legislative district chairs in the 19th and 20th Districts, despite the fact that it is required by RCW 29A.80.061 .

Upon seeing the PCOLA campaign being manifested there, party leaders took out an ad in the local paper, complete with a listed slate of PCO candidates that they wanted people to vote for. The same paper then boasted in their post-primary report that ‘just five of the 29 candidates endorsed lost their elections’. While this may be good advertising for their newspaper, it didn’t give a very accurate picture of the situation in the Cowlitz County Republican Party. Once again, the uncontested races were a majority of the total races, and PCOLA’s populist, grass roots appeal allowed them to out-recruit their Establishment competition. The totals are closer than in Clark County though, and they set up a very interesting Organization meeting in December. Expect the old guard running the meeting to give themselves every advantage going into the vote. This is a story we plan to follow and hopefully get a report on, so stay tuned.

As I was reading these articles from separate counties with nearly identical headlines (just a strange coincidence, I’m sure), I was reminded of our local political sage who blogged about the results of the PCO Liberty Alliance campaign two years ago:

Looks like reality and an abysmal, laughably inept performance…has set in as the massive waste of time, effort and money resulted in no real change in the GOP landscape and, well, we’re back to business as usual

The only time it really matters is Re-Org… and there will be a mass turn out then that will dwarf the Paulbots… and any effort to change the bylaws will be met the same way…. since there has to be several weeks notice given to any such effort (no surprises allowed). For these guys, they’ve managed to confuse motion with action. They are distinctly different… as they will come to find out.

Well, our somewhat antagonistic (but loveable) blogger friend was half-right anyway; there was record-setting turnout. Fortunately for PCOs and friends of grass roots candidates everywhere though, we were able to change the bylaws and the leadership that December to reflect a more populist approach to local Republican politics, giving far more control of the party to the only folks actually elected by voters, the PCOs. In fact, the vote on the new bylaws was 160 to 3, so I guess ‘half-right’ might be too generous. The only thing that victories by former party leaders in PCO races netted them was a front-row seat as the turning of the guard unfolded (regrettably, that blogger was not there to witness it, and had to read about it from some ‘moronically named site’).

And that is why you come to this blog (both of you), because journalists and sour ex-State Party Executive Directors don’t always get it right.

  1. ron says:

    Regarding any perceived “establishment victory”… I don’t think election results should ever really be interpreted as the public making any sort of statement one way or another, either AGAINST the grassroots, or somehow FOR the establishment. I don’t believe most voters think in those terms. If they did, congress would also be getting a corresponding jump in its approval rating. The percentage of voters that would deliberately characterize themselves as “pro-establishment”? I don’t think that number would register by any legitimate measure.

    Also: I think the “moderate vs conservative” labels are a distraction – a media supported deception. I’m not going to grant such a soft term as “moderate” to the shredders of the constitution. I’m sure they find it to be a very warm and cozy cloak to wrap into. What a joke.

    I would say those people who would vote for an incumbent on the basis of incumbency, are not coming from any sort of moderate vs conservative concern, or an anti grass roots sentiment… what they are more likely caught up in is that tragic mental framework, the heavily exploited affect of the 2 party system which is: “I have no choice but to support the republican frontrunner, whomever that might be – end of story”. This voter will also just as easily go with a grassroots candidate that happens to become the frontrunner.

    So… the two perceived factions fight over the ever shrinking remainder of mainstream votes, most of which are sadly about: 1) those that vote “name recognition” 2) those that vote blindly for frontrunners, and 3) those that vote blindly against incumbents. Meanwhile, the vast majority are just actively and consciously disengaged.

    My door-belling has shown me that the public has no significant awareness of any grassroots vs establishment battling. What I see mostly out there is just a growing anti politician vibe. To them, there is no difference between the two sides… politicians are just politicians, and politicians, ARE the problem (no matter what their messaging may be). A typical response went something like this: “No, I will not look into voting for your candidate, I don’t like the government, so I do not vote”. I must say, I found myself appreciating them very much, being that they were the only type that seemed willing to have anything resembling a conversation. Not meaning to sound hopeless or angry – just trying to see realistically, and waiting for the real awakening. (and hoping it will somehow come sooner than it looks to me right now at this point in time)

    • A very thoughtful comment. I have actually struggled in my writing with the term ‘moderate’ to describe people who like government control over everything, and insane spending of tax dollars, totally immoral and monstrous military action all over the world, crony capitalism, and perpetual spying on everyone. Clearly, these positions are anything but moderate, the term itself has an Orwellian irony. If you have a suggestion for an alternate term, let me know.

      I think you are totally correct that voters have very little idea about the difference between ‘grassroots’ and ‘establishment’ as a practical matter. We have spent some time trying to define these terms so that people can see the difference between organic thoughts coming from outside the political class vs. the groupthink we see within the party that is primarily focused around obtaining and preserving power. The government-hating people you cite, however, are not helping the situation by remaining silent. We are all flawed instruments, but at least we are trying to change things rather than simply allowing a few people to control our environment.

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