Republican group seeks to make local races partisan
Sat April 4, 2009 10:42 pm

The following draft letter has been widely circulated in Republican circles. The street address is that of the Patriot Group, a prominent GOP consulting firm, although I have not verified the suite number. The group seeks to form an organization that it says will be the "trade association" [their quotes] for Republican elected officials in Texas.

Association for Texas Republican Elected Officials
919 Congress Avenue, Suite 1140
Austin, TX 78701
[phone and fax omitted--pb]

[Date]

Dear ____ (Elected Officials):

It is with great pleasure that I invite you to join us as a founding member of the Association for Texas Republican Elected Officials (TREO). When people elect their leaders in a republic, they do so with the intention their representatives will associate, act with wisdom and do what is good for their communities. Republican office holders in Texas need a strong, smart organization that will help all of us do our jobs better and sell our brand more effectively. This new group will be the “trade association” for Republican elected officials in Texas.

TREO will be an essential tool for networking and educating ourselves about issues, policies and electoral politics. We will also be able to advocate for elected officials within the party, network with each other across the entire state, and strengthen and support the state and local party organizations. TREO will only be for Republican elected officials elected in partisan races and also for non-partisan elected officials who choose to identify themselves as Republicans and who vote in Republican primaries (bold face added).

Please join us as a Founding Member of this new organization. Enclosed are a Summary Sheet and the Initial Strategic Plan for the organization. You may sign up by returning the enclosed form or joining our website at: www._________.com If you have any additional questions or comments, please contact, Keen Butcher, at (512) XXX - YYYY, or email Keen@____.com).

* * * *

I googled Keen Butcher and found that he is an investment banker from Santa Clara, California, who recently relocated to Houston. The following paragraph is part of a longer article that appears in a conservative online publication:

Out of three county-wide seats, two in Santa Clara [County] are now held by Republicans: sheriff and district attorney. As Butcher loves to note, the Democrats only hold the office of tax assessor. This has already helped at least one statewide candidate: when Arnold ran for re-election in 2006, he got more than double the improvement in Santa Clara than his average elsewhere.

Appreciatively,

(list of approximately fifteen Elected Official signatures)

Fact Sheet

What? Association for Texas Republican Elected Officials (TREO)

Who? All elected Republicans in Texas, from US Senate to MUD districts.

Why? Elected Republicans need a strong, effective and formal organization for networking, training and education, and advocacy within the Party – especially for the next generation of partisan officeholders. This is much like the Republican Governors Association or the Republican Attorney Generals Association on the national level.

How? Statewide membership with an office and a full time Executive Director

Funding? Primarily self-supporting through dues. Some funding may eventually come from donors who support Republican candidates.

Federal officeholder dues: $1000

Statewide Elected Officials dues: $1000

State Senator Dues: $500

State Representative Dues: $250

County and non-partisan officeholder dues (representing more than 100,000 people): $150)

County and non-partisan officeholder dues (representing 50,000 to 100,000 people): $100

County and non-partisan officeholder dues for those representing less than 50,000 people: $50

Former elected officials: $50

Purpose: [This was left blank. Let me fill this in: To make money from gullible, insecure candidates]

Education: The skill sets needed in order to run a successful campaign and to win an election are vastly different than those needed to govern. Our candidates for local office need to be mentored on how to run a campaign and be an effective candidate. After they win, they need to be mentored on how to be effective at governing.

Networking: Our elected officials need to know each other. TREO can provide regional and statewide opportunities to meet. We should not be governing in a vacuum. There are many common experiences in different cities. By meeting to share experiences about reaching policy and campaign goals, we can assure that wisdom of lessons learned will help current and future generations of Republicans and our state.

Advocacy within the Party: Our locally elected officials are the people who best know how to win an election in their area. Too often they are too busy governing to give fellow Republicans the time and energy it deserves. TREO will provide and efficient avenue to do that.

Relationship with the state or local Republican Party? Separate entities but mutually supportive.

Endorsements: This organization will NOT endorse one Republican over another.

Communications: Will this organization communicate to the media? Absolutely. It will help point journalists to local elected officials who can give a Republican answer to local questions.

Candidate Recruitment: The overwhelming majority of our partisan elected officials start their careers in local elected office. This organization will help engage the local elected officials more thoroughly in the process of electing our partisan officeholders.
Is this for judges (who preside over a court)? No. The nature of their elected office is too different from other elected offices.

Governance:

Board of Directors Elections: Elections for officers will occur at the Texas State Republican Convention, which is held every two years.

Board: 1 federal officeholder (or designee), 1 state legislative representative (or designee), 1 state executive representative (or designee), 8 city council and school board representatives (one from each region of Texas – 8 regions defined by four contiguous Senate Districts), other elected districts (1 for all of state). 1 Founding Chairman.

Executive Director: Hired by Board. Reports to Board. Paid. Full time.

Local Chapters: Yes, if requested by the membership.

Official Business Meetings: Conducted monthly. Official business can be carried out on a conference call. Local elected Republicans are encouraged to create a regular meeting time and place.

* * * *

This proposal sets off my alarm bells. The effort to partisanize local elections is bad for candidates, bad for local government, and bad for governing. It is one more case of ambitious folks trying to make themselves into bosses and enforcers of campaign strategy and ideology. No doubt it will eventually lead to lobbying the selfsame candidates whom the consultants support, once they are elected. No matter what the organization says about not endorsing one Republican candidate over another, their self-interest will require them to pick a favorite among multiple candidates.

The organizers stipulate that, "Our locally elected officials are the people who best know how to win an election in their area." Exactly. This is another case of a solution looking for a problem. Or looking for money and influence. Candidates who run in nonpartisan races are particularly well suited to serve in public office because they have diverse constituencies and learn from them the wide range of problems that the public faces. To give candidates a partisan label is to ensure that some constituents will be more equal than other constituents. It's a bad idea, a terrible idea. Forget it.

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