tl:dr, Our betters at RPI continue to take control from the grassroots – the 2nd district fought back and won!
Last Saturday, Republicans met across the state in their newly formed districts for District Conventions. I live in Cedar Rapids so I am part of the new 2nd Congressional District comprising much of northeast Iowa. I should probably let readers know that I have been involved in planning/running every District Convention since the mid 1990s. For many years, I chaired Platform Committees and ran the platform debate. The last several years I have chaired the Rules Committee and run the rules debate. I have also served as convention parliamentarian and this year was the third time I served as convention chairman. I also served on the State Central Committee for over a decade, so I know the history and how we got here.
I am not only from the 2nd District but I am from Linn County. Both the district and the county have a history with The Republican Party of Iowa. I am the first to admit that we in Linn have often been RPI’s problem child. Maybe it’s because we are the second largest county and we have an inferiority complex. For whatever reason we in CD2 seem to butt heads with RPI, the State Central Committee and the rest of the party leadership. This year’s convention was no different! It may not have been apparent on the surface but there was a battle going on between the District and RPI.
Spoiler alert: RPI lost!
A few years ago the State Central Committee passed a resolution declaring that in order to run for State Central Committee, candidates had to submit a Declaration of Candidacy(DOC) form by a date certain. Then the candidate info could be printed in advance in the convention tabloid and delegates would know for whom they were voting. It seems innocuous enough, but remember the old saying: Fool me once shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me!
We’ve seen this movie before! This year, the SCC modified the bylaws to require not just a DOC but PERMISSION to run for National Convention Delegate. It started with a requirement that National Convention delegate candidates fill out a DOC and now,
7. Individuals running for delegate to the Republican National Convention must provide a letter of recommendation from an officer of a County Central Committee, a member of a District Executive Committee or a member of the State Central Committee.
Article VIII §7 of the RPI Bylaws
The SCC passed this bylaws amendment without soliciting information from the District Executive Committees or counties and I would be willing to wager that if you didn’t read my earlier blog post on this issue that this is the first time you are hearing of it! My philosophy is that the grassroots of this party do not need permission from the
swamp party leadership, the party leadership should be asking the grassroots for permission.
So the issue at the 2nd CD Convention was whether the SCC had the power to pass a resolution requiring the DOC form for SCC candidates … and further, how far were they willing to go to attempt to assert control! I guess we now know.
The issue came to the head when Bethany Gates decided to run for SCC. I served on the SCC with Bethany for one term about five years ago. She served with me on the District Rules committee. At the meeting she told me that she was interested in running for SCC but couldn’t find anything on the RPI website about the DOC form. Also, the date for turning in the form had passed. She asked about whether I thought she should run and I told her, “yes!”
From a rules perspective, my contention was that neither the Convention rules, Robert’s Rules of Order, the RPI Constitution, RPI Bylaws, RNC Rules nor the Iowa code required the DOC form therefore the form was not required! I knew this would come up at convention and when someone moved to amend the rules to add a DOC requirement, the amendment lost by almost 75% (I didn’t write the number down but that is my recollection!) District 2 had spoken. With redistricting, there were 6 incumbent SCC members in the newly formed district. Tim Busch chose not to run for re-election and Andy Cable was too sick to attend the convention. After the convention made it clear that they did not support the DOC there were other candidates nominated from the floor.
I thought it was interesting that some of the incumbents chose to double down and defend the SCC and the DOC requirement. On the first ballot, three candidates (including Bethany) who spoke against the DOC requirement won. It took multiple ballots to elect the fourth member (who had spoken in favor of the DOC).
I dare the Republican Party of Iowa to ignore the grassroots of the Second Congressional District and not seat Bethany Gates on the State Central Committee!
I found out that there was a last ditch effort on the part of
the swamp RPI to force the DOC requirement on the 2nd District. It was pretty subtle, it might have worked! The district Organization Committee is in charge of recommending convention officers and appointing a parliamentarian, sergeants-at-arms, etc. Justin Wasson and I were both nominated to be convention chairman and Justin stepped aside and let me chair the convention. In our conventions the Organization committee also appoints a temporary convention chair. The temporary chair simply calls the convention to order, oversees the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, then holds the election for permanent chair. That’s it! It’s totally ceremonial, in all my years I’ve never seen any controversy with a temporary chair.
So, here’s what RPI tried to do. They suggested that former Iowa House Speaker and current RPI co-chair Linda Upmeyer serve as the convention temporary chairman. OK, that sounds good. Linda was in the old 4th district and the majority of counties in the new 2nd district are from the old 1st district. It would give her some visibility within the new district. Then RPI tried to pull a fast one! They said that Linda would feel better with someone she knows serving as parliamentarian and the party suggested that their legal counsel (I think he is still legal counsel) would come from Des Moines to serve as convention parliamentarian. They further said that unless the convention accepted this parliamentarian, Upmeyer would not serve as temporary chair.
Well, this set off red flags on the convention organization committee. It was unprecedented! RPI has never tried to send their own parliamentarian to a district convention. The districts have always chosen their own parliamentarians. And this idea that Upmeyer wouldn’t serve without the party’s hand-picked parliamentarian didn’t pass the smell test! The position of convention temporary chairman is wholly honorary! No business, except selecting the convention permanent chair, takes place while they preside. I am not sure what the play was here … was Upmeyer going to try and be the permanent chair? Was the parliamentarian going to serve throughout the convention and attempt to prevent nominations from the floor? Well the Organization Committee told RPI that they
could shove it had already selected a parliamentarian and the 2nd District would regretfully decline their kind offer! In the end, I was elected as permanent chair, the parliamentarian appointed by the Organization Committee was a great help to me and throughout the convention and the convention asserted their right to elect whomever they chose to party leadership … a a success in my book!
Note: in this post I have not explained why many SCC members support the DOC. I will dedicate a future post to that discussion.