I have written two blog posts about how the Republican Party of Iowa want require candidates to fill out a declaration of candidacy form before running to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention or serve on the GOP State Central Committee. In the blog post about RNC delegates, I pointed out that not only do you have to file a Declaration of Candidacy(DOC) form in advance, but now the bylaws require you to have permission from a county, district or state GOP official! The more recent blog post points out that the to run for SCC you must fill out a DOC in advance and turn it in to the state party. All ten readers of this blog know that I am strongly opposed to getting permission to run for RNC delegate positions. I am also opposed to requiring the DOC form for SCC candidates. In my opinion, the convention can choose whomever they wish. The reality is that filling out a DOC form should be an advantage to candidates running for these positions. I would be in favor of making it optional, offering candidates who fill them out the opportunity to get their info in the convention tabloid.
The reason many in the party support these measures is to prevent a small but well-organized group from taking over. Before you dismiss this as simply fear and paranoia, you should know, it actually happened and I was there. For several years, Steve Scheffler and his Iowa Christian Alliance (now Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition) had been the man behind the curtain in Iowa GOP circles. When it came to convention season, his organization was famous for putting together a slate of candidates that won most of the seats on the State Central Committee and on the (now defunct) state nominating committee. The nominating committee seats allowed Steve to essentially pick who got to go to the state convention. I know this because I used to be in Steve’s camp and I served as titular head of the nominating committee (it might have been in 2000.)
But in 2012, things were different. I was no longer in Steve’s camp and I was running against Steve for National Committeeman (a race I of course lost). But the real difference was Ron Paul.
Ron Paul had managed to rally a small but well-organized group of followers here in Iowa. Now, I don’t think that Ron Paul ever believed that he could become president. Instead, I think he believed that if he focused his efforts in a few strategic states like Iowa and had his people stay involved after the caucus (when other candidates moved on to try and win the next caucus or primary) that he could take over enough state party delegations to make a splash at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The strategy proved very effective. I remember being at district convention when they had their whips (paid staffers) working the conventions with their headsets making sure that their people knew for whom to vote.
Now, I don’t know if the Ron Paul folks took advantage of Steve or if Steve took advantage of the Ron Paul folks but rather than put out a competing slate, Steve and some of his people were on the Ron Paul slate. I have been told that Steve says that he didn’t know that it was a “Ron Paul” slate when he agreed to be on it. As experienced an operator as Steve is, I find that a little hard to believe. But whether knowingly or unknowingly, Steve lent his name to the Ron Paul folks who effected an almost complete takeover of RPI and our delegation to the Republican National Convention. Many of us who had been in the party for years had no idea who these people were. I said then, and I’ll say it again, I don’t think the Ron Paul folks did anything wrong. They organized, they stayed involved after caucus and they achieved their objective. We should all learn from that!
Since then, in his role as National Committeeman, Steve (and state party chairman Jeff Kaufmann) continually remind us how we can’t let this happen again or we will lose First-in-the-Nation status. That’s why many support requiring the DOC forms for SCC and permission to run as delegates to the National Convention. I predict that the new SCC will double down and amend the RPI bylaws so that future SCC candidates must fill out a DOC form in advance to run. Even though I believe that the grassroots of the party can elect whomever they please, if such a move would prevent someone like Steve Scheffler from helping to take over the state party (again) I might be convinced that it is the right thing to do!