I really apologize for the delay in getting this out. My usual blogging time was consumed by sick children.
I knew that the event was going to be interesting when I arrived slightly late and had to park a block away from headquarters. Sure enough, it was standing room only inside the office. Honestly, there were more people at this event at 11:30 on a weekday than some of the campaign events I attended last fall. The Chair race is probably getting a bit out of control at this point.
Lisa had brought handouts detailing her positions on her goals and aims if elected Chair, for those people who did not read the profiles printed on this blog. (They will come around eventually.) There was also pizza purchased by Lisa (I presume) from Blackjack Pizza, an indirect, unwitting sponsor of this site.
Lisa played to her strong points right away by stressing the need to raise money for the cycle right away in '07 due to the impending drain on donations that a contested Presidential Primary was going to cause, which is a very good point.
Next she was faced with the inevitable questions on party unity, especially in the face of the CD 8 primary, and the NRCC involvement. She was quick to point out that it was not the RNC involved, or the state party, and that the NRCC is a PAC made up of the GOP House Representatives, and ultimately they held the blame for what took place. She also pointed out that Tom Reynolds had been replaced by Tom Cole, which showed that she had kept up to date on those happenings. The fact that Matt Salmon made a call on behalf of unfair attacks on Steve Huffman was also mentioned. Lisa countered that this was done only in response to Democratic attacks that were only happening to Steve, and was not connected to the primary contest in general, and was not an endorsement. She then moved on, thinking the issue covered. More on this later.
She then went on to outline three of her major non-fund raising initiatives: Build the current P.C. Base, Educate the workers and voters, and to reconstruct the voter vault to be used more successfully and with greater results across the state. She did a good job of outlining the voter vault and how it is supposed to work. When face with criticism that the GOTV effort seemed uncoordinated and replete with duplication of effort, she was very effective in outlining how the system worked, and who got contacted with which mail piece. She also recounted that Pima County Republicans were 8% more effective in turning out the vote by mail ballots than their Democratic counterparts.
Moving back to her recruitment and training focus, she said that retaining a positive message was essential in brining the party back to its winning ways, and that this would be a focus.
Next the specter of Moderate vs. Conservative came up, which I believe Lisa handled rather well, in pointing out that her basic platform is similar to Randy Pullen, as is their stands on most issues. She pointed out that her supporters come from all corners of the tent. In looking at her site, she is more than correct in claiming this. (It is this author's belief that the whole conservative vs. liberal comparison of these two candidates is a canard and is quite overblown.)
In passing, Lisa pointed out that she is not a huge fan of Clean Elections as presently implemented.
Getting back to her strong suit of fund raising, Lisa committed to helping finance elections on the city council level where needed. She also shared her vision to spreading out some of the heavy-duty fund raising speakers to some of the outlying counties to help replenish county party coffers.
When asked about how she would treat the upcoming presidential primary if elected, especially in terms of John McCain. She commented that it was her duty to offer a level playing field, and that she would not endorse one particular candidate over another.
When asked about who we could expect to join her team by the same devastatingly handsome correspondent, she claimed that she had not promised any positions at this point and would put together a search committee to make sure that she put together a highly qualified staff. She also said that she would more than likely open up the search to outside of the state, if that provided better options.
Unfortunately, at this point the conversation went downhill as it had threatened to for a large portion of the meeting (I left some of those bits out.) If I had to pick out a criticism for James, this is where it lies. There is bad blood not only between "Conservatives" and "Moderates," factions of the Huffman and Graf campaigns, but also a general sense of Pima county only getting the table scraps fed to us by Maricopa county. Some of the arguments are more justified than the others, and obviously Lisa was not going to solve them in this meeting, but it seemed to me that there was a disconnect as to how she was prepared for what she was going to face.
Just as a Rock and Roller might tape a note on the back of his guitar to remind him what city he is in, and perhaps might assemble a few small local odds and ends to discuss to endear themselves to concert-goers, Lisa should have had someone prepare her for the local issues and what was likely to come up. I believe this was done in a general sense, but not specifically. Obviously, people at the event were not satisfied with her original answer that assigned blame for the RNC solely, nor were they satisfied with her explanation of Matt Salmon's call on behalf of Huffman. In reality, Lisa was probably more correct than not, but these are still smoldering issues, especially for the party activists in attendance, and really needed more care and messaging from her. Of course she didn't wish to throw Salmon under the bus, but an admission that perhaps the current Chair acted a little too soon, without checking with the base in the area might have helped. Pullen, when presented with the same opportunity, showed that he was very familiar with the issue, which was important, and also promised to call and meet with Tom Cole to discuss what happened and to get assurances that it would not take place again. Not a lot, but enough for him to get to the next issue successfully.
Additionally, for a group of people that feel that their statewide influence is almost ignored, Lisa could have helped her cause by promising to put Southern Arizona representation on her team. Wanting to open positions to someone from out of state before doing this may not have been the best choice of words here.
Again, these are perhaps nit picks, but in the end, it affected the way that she was trying to portray her message. Obviously she has been playing catchup to Randy who has a better knowledge of the Party outside Phoenix due to his current responsibilities. She should be able to depend on her team to fill her in on the local arenas, and in this case they may have left her wanting to a certain degree.
Overall, however, I enjoyed Lisa's presentation and I am glad that we (meaning the party, and not me in particular as I am not a PC) have two qualified candidates to select from at the end of the month.