Last night was a fun night for me. I went to the AZ LD-19 Republican Party meeting, at which all the candidates for the statewide AZGOP offices were speaking. For those of you unfamiliar with the state party, or who aren't Republicans, this Saturday is the AZGOP convention where elections will be held for the new Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary, at-large members, etc. The former Chairman, Randy Pullen, decided not to seek re-election after losing his bid to be a state committman a couple months ago, and in the last few weeks, the list of candidates has whittled down for one reason or another to just three: Tom Morrisey, Marty Hermanson, and Ron Carmichael. But I get ahead of myself.
Because of the importance of this meeting and the desire to get as many people in as possible to hear the candidates, the LD-19 meeting was actually a combination LDs 18, 19, 21, and 22 meeting, and about 200 people or so (rough estimate) showed up. And because of a scheduling conflict, the meeting had to be held outdoors in the ampitheatre area of the Mesa Community College Red Mountain campus. They had plenty of chairs set up clustered around a few big propane heaters, which helped, but by the end of the meeting I was indeed cold.
I started out by talking to a few people that I recognized from other places/meetings, such as former CD-6 candidate Jeff Smith (whom I endorsed through this blog in August last year - and who surprisingly remembered my name), LD19 1st Vice Chairman Alan Soelberg, LD19 Chairman Wayne Gardner, and several precinct committeemen and non-pc's like myself.
At 7pm, Chairman Gardner started the meeting with an introduction of all the public officials there, and while I will inevitably miss someone in my recollections, some of the familiar faces included AZ Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, Rep. Justin Olson (whose job I interviewed for at the Arizona Tax Research Association), Sen. Rich Crandall, and the Chairmen of LD7 and 21. Sorry if I missed you and you were there - correct me in my comments below!
Because of the time constraints of having so many politicians and candidates who wanted to speak at this meeting, each person was very strictly timed. Each public official was given exactly one minute to speak, and almost all of them stuck to those limits. Our legislative officials in LD19 spoke with their one minute speeches on the bills that were proposed or passed through the House yesterday and how those would positively impact the state. Others talked about the need to continue to commit to conservatism and repeal "Obamacare," and others discussed other issues. Sadly with the volume of speakers, I won't go into as much detail about everyone as I usually do in this blog.
After our elected officials, candidates for the state party were given chances to speak, followed by a Q&A session after each office's group of candidates. First, the six candidates for the CD-6 at-large seats (basically representatives from the congressional district to the state party) got one minute to speak about their candidacy. It's incredible how much information a person can fit into one minute if they really try! Personally, I was most struck by a man named Paul Brierley for the CD-6 At-Large seat, whose list of credentials is impressive (current LD21 chairman, former Graham County Chairman, 15-year precinct committeeman, several endorsements from well-respected Republican leaders) and who was one of the more eloquent and practiced speakers up there. After the meeting he and I also had a few minutes to talk about my question for the Chairman candidates (you'll hear about that shortly), and he seems like the kind of person who would be an exceptional representative for this district.
After At-large candidates, the Secretary and Treaurer candidates each also got one minute to speak - there were two people for each position - and they discussed their experience within the party and with bookkeeping. Among the notables was Pat Oldroyd for Secretary, the immediate past chairwoman of LD19, who also received an award in the form of an elephant statuette for her hard work and service to LD19 last night. Needless to say, she would seem to have quite a few locked-up votes from this district for her election.
Finally, the three Chairman candidates each received four minutes to speak. Mr. Morrissey spoke on the need of the party to fundraise more effectively and to better manage the AZGOP's "brand" for 2012. Mr. Carmichael spoke on his credentials and endorsements and how his experience makes him the best candidate for the job. Mr Hermanson was represented by one of his campaign staff because he was at another event somewhere else in the valley, but that aide talked about Hermanson's credentials and personality, and how his work with the party in other aspects made him qualified to be Chairman.
As an aside, I found it interesting how very vastly different the three mens' personalities were. Marty Hermanson's aide was fairly young and energetic, and he most certainly had public speaking experience as a motivational speaker somewhere because during the Q&A I swear he prefaced every answer with "That's a great question, thank you for asking it" or some variation. Ron Carmichael, a man shorter in stature than the others, had a certain fire about him that could have seemed standoffish if you didn't speak to him personally. He seems to be the one in it for an ideological reason to advance conservative values in the state, which I find satisfying. Tom Morrissey, running as a write-in candidate for the position, is a bit like my uncle - cracking jokes with every turn, a little "nerdy," and quick to jump on a topic. His slogan, "I have a plan," was backed up by his telling us what his plans were, but I can't see him running the party efficiently.
After the three men spoke, there was time for a brief Q&A session. I was the second person to ask a question, and the first to request an answer from all three candidates. My question was, in paraphrasing, "since the conservative and Republican youth groups (Young Republicans, College Republicans) have been traditionally ignored by the AZGOP in years past, how do you plan to support such groups as Chairman?"
While both Mr. Morrissey and Mr. Hermanson's aides talked about the need of the party to be more inclusive of young people and how important it was to get the next generation of youths involved, only Ron Carmichael actually gave me a promise: if elected, he intends to put members of the Young Republicans and the College Republicans, etc, on his Executive Board as ad hoc members. In this way, the youth groups would be both represented at the state party level and would be able to share our ideas and better interface with the AZGOP. That alone would be a fantastic first step for youth groups in the state, and I appreciated very much how frank Mr. Carmichael was in answering that question.
After the conclusion of the meeting, I had several people, including a few elected officials and candidates, come up and thank me for asking that question (and ask my opinion on whose answer I liked best!). That was unexpected, but gratifying to know that my question on behalf of the next generation of Republicans was well-received. I talked at length with people like Chairman Gardner and Mr. Brierley for almost an hour under the space heaters about my involvement in LD19 and some of my ideas about improving interface with young people.
At the end of the day, I'd say it was a successful night all around. Sadly, because I am not a state committeeman, I do not get to cast votes for the AZGOP officials this Saturday. However, I can still make a couple endorsements from this small blog and hope they help others with their decisions: I support and endorse Ron Carmichael for AZGOP Chairman, Pat Oldroyd for AZGOP Secretary, and Paul Brierley for CD-6 At-Large Representative. Good luck!