Tuesday, November 25, 2008

State Republican Party Chairman Candidates Webb and Wood Appear Together on KARN; Files Drops Out

Doyle Webb and Joseph Wood both appeared today on Dave Elswick’s talk radio show on KARN. They both made the case as to why they should be the Arkansas Republican Party Chairman.

Doyle Webb said that he is seeking this position not because he has any aspirations for public office but instead he wants to have promote the Republican Party and work full time to elect good candidates. Webb went on the say that he believes “the best government is the one nearest the people, at the local level” and that as a conservative he “wants to get more for your tax dollar” by help to build a more efficient form of government. Webb said that his experience in the state legislature, in the lieutenant governor’s office, and in various positions within the Party have prepared him to be the state party chairman.

Joseph Wood said that as chairman he wants to share his vision for the party. Wood wants to build upon the strategies the current chairman Dennis Milligan (who has publicly expressed support for Wood) has put in place and bring in new volunteers and new donors. He wants to build the party’s “brand name” by educating the community about what the Party stands for and strengthen the Party’s connection to the community.

Both men spent the afternoon taking questions from callers. One caller asked the candidates if they felt they could recruit candidates for the upcoming 2010 races, particularly the senate race against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, the representative race against Rep. Vic Synder, and the gubernatorial race against Gov. Mike Beebe. Wood said that his background in executive recruiting has prepared him to work in this area and to build relationships that will help recruit such candidates. He said that he has heard several names mentioned for the upcoming Senate race including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Webb responded that while the party has done a good job recruiting candidates in the past, they have not done a good job supporting them. He said that the party needs to learn how “to block and tackle” instead of trying to “throw a last minute Hail Mary pass.” Webb stated, “We need to not only have the Republican name beside candidates but have a party organization behind them.”

Another caller, in reference to the Bush administration, asked if they felt the Republicans had adequate conservative leadership over the last eight years. Webb replied, “While he has tremendous respect for President Bush, he was not as conservative of a leader as President Ronald Reagan.” Webb said that on the state level, Democrats have controlled the state legislature for over one hundred years with failed results and it is time to give Republican a chance.

Wood responded that he believe President Bush will go down in history as “one of the greatest commanders-in-chief” but he did not do a good job controlling spending and allowed the government to continue growing in size.

Other callers asked how the candidates planned to connect with the community and communicate with the common voter as opposed to only the larger donors. Wood said that this begins by clearly communicating our values and our conservative principles and then moving into a connection with the community by using new technology and expanding community involvement. This will allow the Party to compete in future elections. Wood stated, “We don’t need to wait until 2010, we need to grow and we need do it now.”

In response, Webb said, “We have been not been effective communicators, and more importantly, we have not been effective listeners.” Webb wants to develop the state GOP website to be a resource for communication with the public and to encourage party involvement by letting people know when events are taking place and inviting people to attend. He also would like to see the party host some community meetings around the state to discuss issues directly with the public, noting that “good ideas don’t just come from Little Rock.”

In addition to the radio appearance of Webb and Wood, there was also some breaking news out of Fort Smith on the state Party Chairman’s race. Jake Files, the Sebastian County Republican Chairman, had announced that he was considering running for state chairman. Files told “The Tolbert Report” in an email today, “While I feel like there is a tremendous opportunity for the RPA to build and grow its numbers in the Legislature, I regret that I will not be able to continue my run for the Chairman’s seat.” Files stated that this was due to the fact that he is considering running for the state senate in 2010 and fells that he need to focus on that race. He did say that he is “going to be an active voice for the state party and hopes to contribute time and energy to building our base, growing our numbers, and working to see that Arkansas truly becomes a two-party state.”

I asked Files who he planned to vote for as state chairman, since Files is a member the State Republican Committee. He said that he has not yet decided although the individual that will receive his support “will be committed to making some changes in the operational side and focusing attention on building our numbers in the legislature.” He said that he does not know Joseph Wood but that he has visited with both Doyle Webb and Bryan King and believes they would both be committed to these ideals.

The State Republican Party Committee will meet on December 13 to elect their new State Chairman. The crowded field has developed after the current chairman, Dennis Milligan, announced earlier this month that he would not seek reelection.

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