Friday, January 05, 2007

Pullen Brown Bag Overview

I am always very impressed when a candidate enters into an unmoderated forum where the questions, people attending, and format are not controlled. Such was the case with the Randy Pullen Brown Bag on Thursday.

Randy showed up with John Rutledge (who didn't really participate much in the discussion,) sat down at the table with his sandwich from Baggins, and due to the length and volume of the discussion, it appeared to go to waste, which is a shame really.

In his opening statement, he laid out that the real problem facing the party at this point is a dysfunction caused by the leadership of the party not communicating effectively with the grassroots, and a grassroots that is not getting needed access to the leadership. This was agreed on by all in attendance (which included a large sampling of precinct committepersons, county GOP Officials, and a blogger.)

He also stated the obvious that this was a mediocre cycle for Republicans at best, and that we were simply outworked by Democrats, and most especially by the governor. He listed off the close races that could have been turned with just a little more State funding and organization that was either too slow in coming or non-existent. He pointed out that while the Kyl race was a positive, perhaps too much State time and money was given to this race. He used the comparison of a flyer. Everything related to the "KYL" race was printed in 34 font while anything concerning the state legislature races were relegated to subscript on the bottom margin. The State Legislative races should be just as, if not more, important to the State party leadership as our national seat races.

As an example of current dysfunction, he brought up the "Voter Vault", which is a database of voters organized and kept up to date which also cross sections by interest and issue. This is a great tool for the East Valley GOP, but unfortunately, it is in terrible disrepair and isn't all that useful for the rest of Arizona. Additionally, what little useful information is kept in these vaults is hardly used anyway because the gateway to the use of the information is so narrow. Only a few people actually have access. The worst part of all is that Democrats are on pace to equal or exceed this current technology, even properly implemented, perhaps by the next election cycle.

If elected, Pullen would focus on Volunteer training, team building, and communications between the various elements of the party. When asked how he intended to facilitate communication, he mentioned that he would be starting a blog as part of the strategy.

One of the questions faced by Pullen was the obvious "What can we do about what happened in the CD-8 primary?" To his credit, Randy was the first person in leadership that I have seen that actually entered into this discussion rather than brushing past or ignoring it. (note to local leadership- this HAS to be discussed, no matter how unpleasant or ugly it could turn out.) In this case, the discussion didn't appear to be too contentious. Here is how Pullen laid out some of the events:

1. The state party had no idea that the NRCC was going to get involved until the day before it happened.
2. The National party, became involved solely at the prodding of Jim Kolbe and his staffers who showed them polling data that showed that Steve Huffman would fare slightly better (about 2%) than Graf in a matchup with Gabby.
3. Nobody else in the state or local parties was consulted about this.

When asked what should have been done differently, Pullen said that he had already scheduled a tentative meeting with new NRCC Chair Tom Cole to discuss what happened, what damage it caused, and to make him fully aware of the ramifications of the NRCC's decision in this area. Of course this is dependant upon his election as State Chair.

The other hold-your-breath question came as someone asked about Pullen's support of John McCain's presidential run. Pullen announced that should McCain win the nomination (and he is the favorite at this point,) he and the state party would do everything in their capacity to get him elected. However, he believed that during the nomination process, it was the duty of the State Chair to maintain strict neutrality. He has told this to the Guiliani and Romney representatives that have already contacted him as well (which to me was the most eye-opening part of the entire discussion.) Obviously McCain has an already built in advantage in Arizona, but maintaining this advantage should not be part of the Job of the State GOP Chair.

Overall, it was a very good sit down, and I was very impressed with Pullen. There will be another of these Brown Bag discussions with Lisa James in the next couple of weeks. I should be able to attend that one as well. I'll get the details and post them for those who would like to attend and not rely on my sloppy note taking :).

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