The Southern Political Report takes a close look today at the current state of the Republican Party of Arkansas. They begin by analyzing the set backs of the last few years with the loss of all statewide offices to the Democrats. Their take according to an unnamed “Little Rock insider” is that “the party became top-heavy and bottom-light,” meaning they failed because they did not build a grassroots base across the state.
The article then shifts to discussing how Arkansas Republicans recover. It offers hope from the 2008 election where Republican made small gains in the state legislature, picking up three seats in the House and holding their seats in the Senate. However, the article suggests that success can only come by competing at the top level saying, “A political party can’t prosper, even as the minority party, if it doesn’t compete for the top offices.” The article goes on to quote RPA Executive Director Karen Ray as saying that the party will “absolutely” nominate candidates for Governor and U.S. Senator in 2010.
I agree with the article that Republicans need to compete at all levels within Arkansas. As a conservative, I feel that the Republican Party most closely represents our traditional Arkansas values. However, I think we should continue to focus on party building at the local county and congressional district level. I believe the gains we experienced in 2008 were a direct result of moving in that direction. Arkansas RPA Chairman Doyle Webb recently out it this way, “We have learn how to block and tackle instead of just throwing a Hail Mary pass.” I like that, and I hope that is the direction we are heading.
UPDATE – I spoke with Karen Ray this morning regarding this and she let me know that she shares Webb’s commitment to focusing on local races saying, “Both Chairman Webb and I believe that the strength of the party for the future rides on the recruitment of quality candidates for local races. We were successful in 2008 because we had a class of candidates who were qualified, well respected members of their community and who will represent our party well as legislators. Recruitment for 2010 legislative races began within weeks of the Nov 08 elections. We are committed to these local races, and we are going to be successful again in 2010.”