20 November 2010

AZ LD-19 GOP Election Meeting

Thursday evening was the annual election meeting for the Arizona Legislative District 19 Republican Party, and like any election, it was not without its fair share of drama. I'll start at the beginning.

I learned about the meeting by actively trying to find out when my legislative district meets, as I would love to be able to get back involved with the Republican Party out here. I haven't been an actively productive political person since 2008. Though I have helped at a variety of events (campaign walks, lit drops, sign posting, working the polls, etc.) as longer readers will know, it's not something I've been doing consistently, and I want to get back into it.

So anyway, I showed up at the meeting time of 6:30pm to signs posted on the doors of the Red Mountain Community College multipurpose room declaring that tonight's election was occurring. One man was campaigning outside for his write-in bid to be Chairman of the LD named Wayne Gardner, and he welcomed me and asked me to remember to write him in when I voted. I told him I wasn't voting since I was not a "precinct committeeman" and was only here to observe. More after the jump break:

A quick note... the general structure of the Republican Party goes something like this: the Republican National Committee is made up of an executive board (headed by Michael Steele) and many National Commiteemen. These NCs are representatives of each state elected by SCs. SCs are State Committeemen, elected by PCs as representatives of the various precincts in each state. PCs are Precinct Committeemen who represent Republicans living in each precinct (and there are more than 4,000 precincts in Arizona alone). Each PC in Arizona represents roughly 125 registered Republicans. Each SC represents something like 5 PCs, and each NC represents several SCs. Confused? Me too.

Basically, the job of a PC is to do all the grassroots volunteerism in the Republican Party - phone calls on behalf of candidates, door-to-door walks, lit drops, sign posting, etc. - and they get a title other than "glorified volunteer." Once a year, PCs meet to vote for State Committeemen. SCs manage PCs, and they get to vote once a year on proposed AZGOP rule changes and for National Committeemen. National Committeemen are basically the House of Representatives for all Republicans at the national level. They help create the party platform and do a bunch of other things I'm not gonna go into here.

Okay, so anyway, got into the meeting and introduced myself to a couple of the people in charge. They thanked me for coming, told me to stay involved, was I interested in becoming a PC?, and so forth. I noted only two people there whom I knew, Chad from Congressman Flake's campaign and Brett Mecum, Executive Director of the AZGOP. I said a quick hello to Chad and found a decent seat from which to watch people. I chatted with a few folks, but mostly just watched events play out, trying to get a feel for everything.

Overall, about 200 people showed up, and about 180 of them were Precinct Committeemen, in my very general estimate. Several younger adults also were there, helping Mr. Gardner with his write-in campaign (I think Chad was one such person, and not there in any official capacity). Most of the PCs were actually a lot older folks, 50's and up. Kinda made me a bit disappointed that I was likely the youngest one in the room at 25. Many people were obviously Tea Party Patriots, attendees of the East Valley Tea Party meetings. I could tell this from their shirts and snippets of conversation that floated across the room.

It was a strange dynamic. I'm not a Tea Party supporter, so it was a bit uncomfortable being in a room full of them. I'm more of a realistic Republican, I suppose, and I view the Tea Party people as being more idealistic - not a bad thing, but also not my way of thinking. On the other hand, I was informed by the Chairwoman when I was speaking to her that this meeting was one of the largest turnouts for an election they'd ever had, so it's certainly good people are getting involved. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

About 7pm, they started their "meeting" which was really nothing more than a vote by acclaimation on a rule that voting would end at 7:40pm sharp and a series of courtesy "nominations from the floor" for each office being elected. This is where chaos began to take root. The people in the back of the room were voting and talking, so it was difficult at best to hear the nominations. The microphone was (apparently) causing some voters to not be able to concentrate and mark their ballots (though I find this farcical, it will be important in a moment).

To be perfectly frank, the election system was a completely dysfunctional process. They had three different blocs of nominees for one position, based upon when and in what manner the person had submitted their name for consideration - via email, on paper, before the deadline, after the deadline - and candidates were being considered for multiple offices via write-in, so some ballots were spoiled but were not able to be reissued. A few folks had multiple proxies, so had to fill out multiple ballots. You had to mark 99 separate X's for 99 separate SC spots, not including the time spent writing in names. There was only one ballot box for 180 people, and no semblance of a line to stand in.... Just completely chaotic.

During the voting time, Randy Pullen was supposed to be a guest speaker, but his schedule had been mistaken and he was in San Diego instead, so Brett Mecum, Gary Pierce of the Corporation Commission, and one guy from the Maricopa County GOP board filled in instead.

Come 7:40pm, the Chairwoman had called out that anyone in line would be allowed to cast their ballots, but some of the voters used that time to hold up the line for some unknown reason, some were still filling out proxy ballots, and there was general disarray. By 8:00pm, the people in charge finally said that the ballot box was closed. Those people in line (who were intentionally holding everything up) would not be able to cast their ballots. Well, let me tell you. This did not... NOT... sit well with most of the people there. A man in a plaid jacket got up and started screaming at the election board that he was in line and he had to be given time to complete his ballots, as the chairwoman had said he would. The election overseers told him that he'd had his chance to cast his votes, but instead held up the lines and as a result he would be unable to cast his votes. Big dramatic moment, filled with ranting by Plaid Jacket Man and his compatriots (whom I believe were affiliated with Wayne Gardner), before finally they brought the ballot box back out and let him stuff his ballots in there, along with one other guy who had a bazillion proxies.

Cue another 30 minutes of speeches by various PCs on how everyone should be ashamed of how they acted, peace, love, and good wishes, and one old guy who went on a rant about how the young people never show up to anything and now they expect to come here and vote (and GET OFF MY LAWN!!!).... I told him where he could go stick his offensive comments, by the way.

Finally, after a while, people calmed down and went about their merry discussions with their neighbors and friends. I continued to observe people, and got a chance to speak with Tom Husband, the Executive Director of the Maricopa County GOP board. Nice guy... we had a good conversation.

Finally, the board announced the tally of the votes for the LD-19 Executive Board at 11pm. I don't remember all the names, but the write-in candidate, Wayne Gardner did indeed win for Chairman. If Plaid Jacket Man and his companion were indeed holding up the line on Mr. Gardner's behalf, then it's very possible that their proxy votes were what pushed him over the edge in the very close race. I found that interesting. I was tired by this point, so I said a quick congratulations to Chairman Gardner, then slipped out to my car to go home.

Honestly, this little election meeting reminded me of the good ol' days in the NAU College Republicans, when I was a naive, egotistical moron. It was SO important to me (and most of the other people in the organization) to win board seats that we sacrificed our principles and our good names in the process. Even after I got out of college, that mentality stuck with me, and hurt my ability to connect with some of the Republicans in the state party. I look back on those days as a really good learning experience, which I have not fully grasped yet, I realize, and I think to myself that this LD meeting reminded me a lot of that. I'm not so sure I want to be a Precinct Committeeman and get back into partisan politics if it's going to be like that.

Yet another good learning experience.

For a video clip on YouTube of dramatic Plaid Jacket Man and one of his partners, click HERE.
For a link to another blog description of the drama, click HERE.


  1. Nice write up. A couple of facts you missed, though, that would shed light on the circumstances.

    I'm a new PC there. The current leadership had deliberately left nominees off the ballot (for officers and for PCs), thus necessitating so many write-ins.

    They also sent out the call letter for the election that omitted names from the ballot (the names of people who were not running on the current leadership's slate were left off). They also solicited votes for themselves in the call letters they sent.

    For this and other reasons, many PCs were upset going into that meeting.

    The then-leadership had also been given a heads up earlier in the day that there were people carrying proxies who - because they'd now have to write-in a ton of names because of leaderships failure to include them - would need more time to write in, and the leadership agreed to grant them that time before the meeting, but once it became apparent that these votes might be the ones that defeated them in the election, the reversed course and disallowed the extension (at least, that appeared to be what motivated the about-face).

    The vote was actually a referendum on bad and misleading practices from the then-current board, which they continued in up until they were forced to play fair by plaid-jacket man and the attorney who took the mic.

    Hence, the drubbing the current leadership got at the polls.

    You should come back out to LD19. The new chairman ran on a promise that things were going to be done by the book, no more shenanigans, no more favoritism and cronyism. The district had been co-opted by the tea party. I'm actually sympathetic to them, but they can't behave that way.

  2. I appreciate the clarifications, Anonymous. As that was the first time I'd been to an LD-19 meeting, I hope you can see just how it looked to an outsider - like a divided house collapsing in on itself via infighting. Whether that's actually the case or not, it's how it looked.

    I admit fully that I don't have the whole story... your side is important to show what PJM and that attorney were trying to do. How they came off sounding is another matter.

    I'll be interested in going back to another LD-19 meeting in the hopes of learning more about the district and meeting the leadership.

  3. I agree with you that the meeting would have been very uncomfortable and somewhat confusing from someone who was unaware of the drama. Just to give you the math, Proxies can be carried by someone in your precinct when PC's cannot make the meeting. On PC in one of the largest precincts (I believe 15 total) was carrying 12 proxies for his fellow PC's who had actually been elected on the ballot in August. Because the current leadership left certain people off the ballot, this person had 43 names that he had to write in on 12 ballots. Given the meeting began at 7pm and voting was supposed to end at 7:40pm this left over 500 names that needed to be written in (43 write-ins on 12 ballots) in 40 minutes. In addition he also had to put over 100 "X's" next to each name. This leaves less than 5 seconds per name if written in continuously. Those who were in line were told that they could continue filling out their ballots in line. They were only holding up the line because their ballots had not been completely filled out. They didn't have the time thanks to the former leadership keeping names off the ballot. Unfortunately Plaid Jacket Man were forced to make a scene since many ballots were not being accepted and were not complete. Even at the end I heard that over 20 ballots had not been completed. Considering that Plaid Jacket Man had been working for any months before this trying to get good leadership in the district I think you can now appreciate the fireworks.

  4. Thanks for the additional clarifications. I was aware of how proxies work (not my first rodeo lol). For your clarification, ballots began to be handed out at 6:30pm (I know this because I was there at 6:25pm just before the doors opened), and thus, doing the math it's actually 12.78 seconds per name.

    Regardless, there was probably a different way to handle the situation. If those people in PJM's camp had objected to the 7:40pm cutoff time, why did they not speak up prior to the vote on that measure? The motion to institute a 7:40pm cutoff time was passed unanimously, with no objections. As an amateur student of Robert's Rules, with quorum present, if enough people knew that they had multiple proxies or needed lots of time to finish, why did they not speak up and at least force debate on the time issue?

    Frankly, in my humble opinion, if not one person with multiple proxies found the desire to object or vote "nay" on the time motion, isn't that a default sense of acceptance and adherence to the time policy?

    And anyway, proxy votes are kind of a cop-out in my opinion as well. If a PC cannot show up to the one meeting per year where they need to vote on their committeemen and leadership, they probably should not have a proxy. Just as on Election Day, if I can't make it to my polling place to vote for Jeff Flake, my father should not have my proxy vote.

    It was an interesting situation overall, and I'm sure there was a less brazen way to handle it. But it was what it was, and I've simply given my perspective as an outsider who knows none of the people involved.