Movement conservatives are dominating Republican National Committee elections throughout the country, and this conservative resurgence might portend a much-needed philosophical realignment of the Republican Party’s largest campaign and fundraising organization. In the past six months alone, roughly 25% of the RNC members have been replaced. Six states — Alaska, California, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah — saw complete turnovers of their delegations.
The RNC’s re-organizational meeting on September 5 in Minneapolis will feature a new class of emerging conservative leaders who challenge both established Republican cultural stereotypes and the moderate Republican establishment. Three new committeewomen, all presidents of their states’ chapters of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, were elected from Alaska, Iowa and Texas. Alaska’s Debbie Joslin had a tough race but prevailed with the help of Ron Paul delegates. Kim Lehman of Iowa, a leader in National Right to Life, will fight to maintain the Republican pro-life platform. Out of Texas, Cathie Adams replaced her term-limited predecessor in a tough fight with a candidate from the more moderate Women’s Federation.
For the first time, the RNC will have three elected African-American national representatives, all of whom are equally if not more conservative than their predecessors.
Michigan’s Republican Party, under the leadership of State Chairman Saul Anuzis, tapped minister and former Detroit City Councilman Keith Butler, an active Republican leader since the 1960s.
Glen McCall, a successful and popular South Carolina county chairman, handily won election despite lacking the support from any statewide Republican officials. McCall estranged himself from the South Carolina establishment by denouncing GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham’s support of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Running against a 20-year veteran, the South Carolina rebel visited each county to make his case directly to the grassroots party activists.
In another conservative rebellion, North Carolina’s incoming National committeewoman Dr. Ada Fisher won her election with over 60% of the vote, even though she did not start her campaign until the day of the election. An expert on occupational medicine, Dr. Fisher simply read the rules and nominated herself. Her victory over the old guard is largely credited to a rousing, conservative speech before the delegates.
When Steve Scheffler was interviewed in Iowa this summer, after his contentious national committeeman race, he offered the following assessment that represents the frustrated views of conservatives everywhere: “I think the message that it was sending was that Republicans in the grassroots are frustrated and they want leadership that is going to take it to the Democrats and to annunciate the differences between the two parties.”
The Republican Party’s electoral chances have always been inextricably linked to the passion and fervor of the conservative movement. After the striking GOP losses of 2006, inability to control congressional earmarks, and the failure of conservatives to nominate one of their own, angst reigns throughout the grassroots activists. However, the dramatic idealistic resurgence seen first in the Republican National Committee is the important fundamental step necessary for a widespread recovery.