Can We Fix It ? Yes !

 For the past several years I have spoken out against the current system being use by the GOP of Delaware for nominating candidates to run for elected office.

  First let me catch new readers up on what it is that I see as being wrong with the current way that things are done.

  Currently the GOP of Delaware uses a convention style for nominating candidates for the GOP . This requires delegates to be nominated and voted on at the county and state level meetings. These meeting are made up of those who happen to show up that month. Granted that you would expect these to be the most motivated members of the GOP if they take the time to show up at all.

  Party leadership then canvases for potential candidates from within the party for whichever offices may be open that election cycle. The party then holds its convention , where the delegates decide who will be the endorsed GOP candidate for the upcoming election.

  Let me be clear that the monthly meetings are open to everyone, so that means that anyone can come and vote , and so one could say that at the very basic level anyone can have a voice in the process. But as the process continues , it becomes more and more removed from the control of the rank and file GOP voters and more a matter of party leadership making the big decisions, such as who will be the final candidate for any given office.

 There is a certain hierarchy built into the system that tends to exclude the people who have jobs and children. We tend to see a system that chooses candidates based on , “whose turn is it this time or who has paid their party dues over the years?” An old boys network if you will , where a candidate may be chosen just by who they knows within the party and not because the voters will respond to him or her.

  So at this point what we have are candidates that the rank and file voters had very  little , if any , choice in nominating . This system also tends to leave highly motivated and equally qualified candidates feeling fustrated  and wronged along with their supporters.

  But wait because the GOP of Delaware does have a primary system to solve this problem. If, after the big celebration they call the convention , where they  coronate the  heir to the throne, if another candidate wishes to “FORCE” a primary against the endorsed candidate , then the GOP holds a primary.

  This is where I feel the GOP of Delaware has gone wrong. To hold a primary after the party has endorsed a candidate , puts the challenger at a distinct disadvantage for at least two reasons. They will be perceived to be a trouble maker for not towing the party line and your lock step GOPers will vote in the primary for the endorsed candidate just because the party tells them to.

  I believe this convention first , primary second system also puts the GOP at a distinct disadvantage in the general election as well. I believe that by “forcing ” a primary the party actually creates an environment for a much more bloody primary due to the fact that the challenger must fight harder to over come not only their opponent, but also the endorsement of the party. This makes it harder to heal the wounds and to move the party as a whole towards the general election.

  It is my feeling that the best thing that could happen for the GOP of Delaware is for the rank and file members to demand a change to the system , that would put the power of choosing candidates in the hands of the voters where it rightly belongs.

 I believe we should do away completely with the state convention . We should set up a primary system that will allow all would be candidates to throw their hats in the ring and then to be judged by the voter and without any undue bias. This would allow candidates to take their cases directly to the voters and remove the need for the back room party dealings. It would I believe , also reduce the contention among the opposing candidates’ camps, making it easier in most cases to bring the party back together so as to fight the Democrats in the general. This would also give the party more time to mount the campaign against the Democrats. Right now as it is, if there is a primary , it shortens the time frame for executing a run in the general election.

  I feel that if we were to go to a strictly primary style for nominating candidates it could turn the GOP around in Delaware. It would put all would be candidates on an equal playing field, so that during the primary one would not be perceived as the “challenger”. It would give  a sense to the rank and file that they are actually involved , and anytime you feel involved you are more likely to be involved. This would also create a climate that I feel would allow the GOP members to then pull together for the general election if they feel that their candidate had gotten a fair shot and had been defeated fairly within a process that allowed all voices to be heard and not just party leadership.

  Now I have made these points in the past and many people from within the party have told me you can’t do it because the state has deadlines. Well the state does have deadlines for when names must be turned in , when candidates must have been chosen , so as to be on the ballot. But the state does not decide how a party chooses its candidates, that is up to the party. The Democrats use a primary system, and as much as it pains me , on this they got it right. The opposition to changing the way we choose candidates comes from party leadership who do not wish to give up the power it bestows upon them. To change the system it will require that the GOP voters demand it be changed.

 The party should be there as a vehicle for candidates to move forward, to assist candidates chosen by the voters to win elections. The party must trust the voters , it must include the voters in the process , or the voters will stay home if they feel that they have no real say in the matter. We have been doing it this way long enough and we have been losing long enough, it is time to make real change in the way we are choosing candidates.

 We must as a party, who claims to be for the rights of the individual, amplify the voice of the individual , we must make every member of the GOP actually feel as if they are of equal value to the party. We must if we want them to be involved at the voting booth , involve them throughout the process.

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11 Responses to “Can We Fix It ? Yes !”

  1. Ed Heath Says:

    Makes sense to me, that’s how it is done in most other places! A primary gives candidates a chance to be voted on by the people!

  2. frankknotts Says:

    The date is 10/15/09 and Ed Heath and I agreed ! Just kidding Ed , I appreciate that you agree. All too often when I bring this up I get shouted down . If I have one person who agrees , then surely there must be more. Thanks.

  3. Pat Fish Says:

    Terrific writing, Frank. I understand completely.

    You really should get your own Blog.

    You’re right….the GOP doesn’t want to give up their power. Your piece brought it all back to me.

    So how do we get started. We got Ed, Me, You….that’s good enough.

    We make a motion to do it this way…what? Next monthly GOP meeting?

  4. JUDSON BENNETT Says:

    I agree that it needs to be changed, but the conventions and the primary dates for both parties are state law. The GOP has requested change several times in the past, but the legislature has refused to budge on it. You didn’t make that point in your article Frank–not sure you knew that?

    FYI: Delegates are nominated by the RD Chairs and approved by the entire committee assembly prior to the convention. Any person who lives in that specific ED who wishes to challege a delegate may do so and force a public election.

    For Pat Fish–this is his own blog?

  5. Pat Fish Says:

    I know about the Blog Jud…just funning. Actually I’m just funning about changing the system too. There’s been complaints about the system of nominating a candidate since I moved here six years ago. I know I’m not going to make a motion at a monthly meeting and boom, it’ll happen.

    I’d heard about it being state law for the primary dates. I wasn’t so clear about the ED and delegate nomination procedures…thanks for that.

    Lookit, if the GOP, or the Dems for that matter not that I care about that…wants to change the system for nominating a candidate they could do it. The truth is that there’s just not enough enthusiasm to get it done.

    It would take a lot of work is what I’m saying here. First, I guess you have to get the state law changed dictating the primary. This right there makes the Dems have input on the GOP and visa versa.

    I keep thinking of Matt Opaliski and the Judge that was our most recent gov nominee…can’t think of his name as I type in the dark of the bedroom late at night…the judge on the big murder trial. Wait…Bill Lee…yeah.

    I personally really like Matt Opaliski, take me with a grain of salt. I thought he was a great guy, nice personality, very conservative, a real family man. And he really wanted the nomination and paid out of his own pocket for a chance to run a couple of other times. This is a guy who SHOULD have gotten a nomination along with the COMPLETE backing of the party. The GOP turned Matt so bitter than he could have cost the pubs an election recently by splitting the vote.

    So Matt drives a truck, wears dungarees. I think there was a real snobbery against Matt and I think Delaware’s GOP is like that.

    So who do they nominate TWICE for Governor? The first time, well ok. Bill Lee almost got it. But the most recent governor election…I know they wanted the drug guy but there’s your problem. The Delaware GOP does not cultivate and groom candidates in this state. A Matt Opaliski would be a fine candidate to have groomed and prepared and help move up the ladder. But no, we get Bill Lee because there was no one else once the drug guy flipped the bird.

    But hey, maybe it’s too complicated for me. I only know I meet people all the time who should be running for an office for the GOP.

    And yet….we get Bill Lee.

    Give me a break.

    Oh and Mike Castle. Heh.

  6. frankknotts Says:

    Mr. Bennett, thank you for the technical input. I understand that the state has a set date for a primary , which means that you would have to have any hopeful candidates signed up before that date. As for the convention , correct me if I’m wrong but there is no state mandate that there be a convention is there? Again correct me if I am wrong , but the Democrats do not hold a convention. The convention is the process by which the GOP currently chooses to choose its candidates, all dates for the convention are driven by the need to meet the mandated date for the primary. If the convention is eliminated , then the party actually has more time to run a primary campaign.
    All it would mean is that the GOP would have to re-tool their processs so that candidates would be required to apply to the GOP in time to be placed on the primary ballot and to run the primary campaign. This isn’t rocket science.
    I find it hard to believe that you are telling me that the state is in charge of how a particular party chooses its candidates.
    I think we both know that the resistence to changing the process is not coming from the state , but from party leadership who now hold the power of choosing canduidates and who are unwilling to turn it over to the voters where it belongs.
    How many times do we need to see GOP candidates shunned by the party , only to have them leave the party and in some cases be elected as Democrats, as was John Atkins. We also lost John Brady to the Democrats . Not because of their ideoogy , but because of how they felt they were mitreated by the party leadership.
    Foregive my wide eyed innocent belief that we can make things better, but when we stop attempting to change things for the better then we should just stop living.

  7. JUDSON BENNETT Says:

    FYI: Correction–State law dictates the date of primary elections and the dates (deadlines for filing), not conventions. Basically, although the parties nomiate their statewide candidates at the convention and are catagorized as the party’s endorsed candidate, anyone may primary that endorsed candidate. Example: Jan Ting–endorsed for Senate, primaried by Protack and Odonnell. I was primaried by Baker and lost fair and square, so what’s the rub? What needs to be changed by legislation is the date of the primaries. September is way too late. Primaries should be held in June–Conventions then established accordingly.

    Regardless, Anybody has the right to file for a GOP or DEM office–regardless of the conventions–so what’s the rub?.

    The convention’s endorsement is a big deal. Frank you could declare your candidacy right now for Senate, start campaigning, and see if the convention picked you over Castle–if not primary him. Bonini is already campaigning for Treasurer. I have a hunch he won’t be alone for that office as a GOP candidate. If the convention picks him, he might indeed be primaried?? THE VOTERS STILL WILL ULTIMATELY DECIDE, NOT THE INSIDERS.

    Regardless, are you suggesting we just do away with the convention, end all delgate selections, ED chairs, Committee people, etc? Wouldn’t that neuter the GOP operation and grass roots infrastructure? I’ve been a committeman, delegate, ED chair, and RD Chair. It didn’t just happen–I volunteered. It is a well oiled grass roots operation designed to elect Repubs. The Dems do it pretty much the same way. How would you organize the Republican Party in Sussex, Kent, and New Castle. Would you elimiate the 7 regional chairs and the Chairman of the Party. I pretty much know the history of most of our leaders for the past 30 years, and they all started out as basic grass roots wokers– Everett Moore, Bruce Rogers,Phillis Byrne, Keller Hopkins, Dave Burris, Ron Sams–from Sussex, and others in the 7 Delaware regions: They are Brandywine, Christiana MillCreek, Newark, Kent, Sussex, Colonial, and Wilmington. Each has a Chair-elected by the Republican Committee from each Region.

    As to Atkins and Brady–they are unique situations and not typical at all.

    My two cents. JUD

  8. Pat Fish Says:

    Thanks Jud.

    So the state says the primary is in September and the general election is in November but the primary should be in June or thereabouts, allowing more time for campaigning. Not that the state should be telling parties when to run their primaries but a-I wonder how other states do it and b-I imagine Delaware says boohoo we need to set up precincts and voting booths so we decide.

    And anybody can enter into a primary regardless of who the GOP endorses but let me sell you a bridge if anybody thinks that the candidate endorsed by the GOP would be defeated by some solitary upstart in a primary.

    I understand about ED’s and RD’s and grass roots and yet…well speaking of Jan Ting…now there’s a candidate that offered about zero now that you brought him up. I was new to Delaware when the GOP came up with this fellow whose answer to every question was “I do like Dubya Bush, ya”. I thought what a bunch of dolts these people in Delaware must be if this is the best they can come up with.

    Lookit there’s something serious wrong with the GOP candidates and maybe pointing fingers at convention dates and primaries isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s that the dolts choose Jan Ting and somebody tell me just what RD or ED or even what committee he ever served on at the grass roots level. Why the hell wasn’t Christine O’Donnell given the nod? Cause she was a local Palin of her time? Cause the upstate GOP didn’t want anything to do with her?

    And Jan Ting could be seen last year sitting at an Obama speech so that GOP nomination makes the Delaware pubs look like MENSA members all. Him and Bill Lee…examples of really dumb nominations.

    Again I see all sorts of folks who should be running as a COP candidate. Matt Opaliski should have been given a chance, he paid his money, he paid his dues, he could have been groomed.

    But oh well, the national guys don’t do much better. Bob Dole, now there’s charisma in a Viagara bottle. I could hardly keep my enthusiasm contained when the pubs came up with this guy. I hardly need mention the fine, fine John McCain, most despised by a large percentage of the base. I’m frankly not convinced that Dubya was the best we could do at the time.

    Sarah Palin? Well can’t have that, no sirree. Can’t have someone beloved by the base because with the GOP it’s all Bob Dole or John McCain and screw you little guys. Oh and Graham….he’s on the horizon cause he reaches across the aisle and that’s the pub mantra, reach across that aisle and smile as the Dems stab us in the back.

    And, oddly, HERE’S THE RUB…the GOP….doing pretty bad here in Delaware and in the national scene.

    Heh. Reality is what reality is. I figger, silly me, there’s a connection.

  9. frankknotts Says:

    Mr. Bennett , the rub as I have explained in the original post is that by putting the convention and the party endorsement before the primary , you create a bias against the challenger. You also create a more fractured condition after the primary for the same reason, making it harder for the party to pull togehter for the general. Maybe totally eliminating the convention is a step too far. But certainly there must be a better way. Why not hold the convention after the primary, and in this way it could be used to pull the party together for the general. In that case I agree the date for the primary would need to be moved to at least July or August at the latest.
    I know you stated before that this has been tried, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be tried again . This may be the perfect time since we have so many of the voters motivated to fight against Pres. Obama and the Democrats, might be a good time to use that motivation to write their state legislators. If the party is not agianst it then why couldn’t the party push for change? We have been having our hats handed to us long enough . We cannot continue to do the same old things, the same old way and expect different results.

  10. JUDSON BENNETT Says:

    Interesting commentary Pat. Something tells me you are a character. I don’t like to catagorize myself, but I’ve always considered myself personally a conservative—pro life, pro defense, pro gun, fiscal conservative, etc, etc, my land use ideas were apparently not too popular with Conservatives, but I always, as a former GOP Leader welcomed differing ideas and tried to recruit folks into the party. You would be amazrd at the eclectic group we used to have in Sussex–differing on some key items, but agreeing 75% of the time. That is gone and the GOP is in bad shape in Delaware—-Reality we agree on.

  11. Ed Heath Says:

    Thank all of you for this interesting conversation. I’m still trying to learn the process here in Sussex County and Delaware after moving her two years ago from Wicomico County, MD where I was pretty involved in the Republican Party.

    I found it very hard to fit in with the R’s here for several reasons. I do think a primary system eliminates some of the “good ole boy” network and gives people like Matt Opaliski more of a chance. Pat, I liked him also!

    Maybe I’ll get to meet you all at the picnic today!

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