New Iowa GOP reps on Republican National Committee on IPTV

Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Christian Alliance and Kim Lehman of the Iowa Right to Life Committee were elected at the Iowa Republican Party’s state convention as national committeeman and national committeewoman.  They’ll start their terms at the conclusion of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul this September.  The two were guests on Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" program which airs tonight at 7:30.

Reporters from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Lee Enterprises newspapers in Iowa and I were out at IPTV to watch today’s taping.  The on-camera conversation among Scheffler, Lehman, Iowa Press reporters David Yepsen and Mike Glover and Iowa Press host Dean Borg started with a discussion about the party’s message and the message sent by the election of Scheffler and Lehman to party leadership.. 

"The first thing I want to point out is that most Republicans are pro-life and so are the candidates and so is John McCain and I believe when I was elected it was just a confirmation that we are a pro-life party," Lehman said.

Yepsen asked the following question next:  "Mrs. Lehman, some of the party moderates are felling left out.  They’re feeling defeated.  How do you get party moderates back in the tent now?"

Lehman responded:  "I didn’t know that they left."

Yepsen:  "Well, Joy Corning, for example, has said — the former lieutenant governor has a letter out that she’s upset with the direction the party’s taken.  How do you attract them?"

Lehman:  "I don’t know that the party’s taking a new direction.  All of the conservatives that are pro-life, pro-family are very fiscally-conservative as well.  I don’t think that the party has changed its view or the platform has changed its view.  I think starting with Ronald Reagan the party became very pro-life, very pro-family and nothing has really changed.  The fact of the matter is we were elected by Republicans at a convention…so I haven’t heard anybody talking about kicking anybody out or that people left the party.  According to what I understand is Joy Corning is still a Republican."

Yepsen:  "Mr. Scheffler, same question to you.  How do you reach out to party moderates at this point?"

Scheffler;  "Well, I think actions speak a lot louder than words.  I think Kim and I will show that we’re inclusive, but we also want our party based on common principles that are found in our state and our national platform, but I think those that know us best, that have worked with us through our organizations or through our grassroots activities, know we are inclusive people even though we’re people of strongly held beliefs and I think it’s fair to say that anybody who gets involved politically has a political agenda…issues that are important to them and so whether they be fiscal conservatives or whether they be social conservatives…we want to do everything we can to get them involved and when we’re 80 percent together on the issues, that makes us allies, not enemies."

A few minutes later, Yepsen asked this:  "Mrs. Lehman, I want to go back to your role as a leader of the anti-abortion movement in Iowa.  Now you’re a party leader as well.  What do you say when a pro-choice Republican comes to you and says, ‘I want to run for the legislature.  I need your help.’?"

Lehman:  "Real simple.  Every candidate has an opportunity to explain their position to their district and what I think is important that every candidate does is to explain whether or not they are pro-life or not pro-life and that they hold to whatever their position was when they get elected, so again, most Republicans are pro-life, of course.  There aren’t all Republicans who are pro-life."

Yepsen: "Right."

Lehman: "Same thing in the Democrat Party.  Some of the Democrats are very pro-life."

Yepsen:  "That’s true."

Lehman:  "And so therefore they get elected and their public that elected them knows that and they are consistent when they get in the legislature and they vote that way."

Yepsen:  "But that did cause a lot of consternation within the Democratic Party when they went out and recruited pro-life Democrats to run for the legislature.  Now, they took control of the legislature with that.  The flip side of the qustion is are you in a position now to have to recruit pro-choice Republicans in order to get the Iowa House back from the Democrats.:

Lehman:  "I think I’m going to continue to hold to the Republican principles that we stand on and the Republican principles that we stand on are based on the platform and the party, the majority of the party.  I accept the fact that not everyone in the party is pro-life.  That is just a reality and that’s the way it is and so if they’re elected, those are the Republicans but I can say this — those Republicans typically run on the fiscal issues to reduce government and I would say, ‘Hang your hat on that.  Let’s go for it,’ because I totally agree that we need to be fiscally conservative in the legislature."

After the show was taped, the two RNC members from Iowa answered a few questions from reporters.

Henderson:  "In response to Dave’s question about pro-choice candidates, you ended by saying, ‘Go for it.’  Does that mean Operation Extinction is dead, is cancelled?"  (Explanation:  Operation Extinction is an effort by some conservatives to rid the GOP of RINOs — Republicans in Name Only.)

Lehman: "I’m not a part of that project, so as far as I’m concerned the majority of the Republican Party is pro-life and most of the candidates are pro-life and those candidates are going to be running on their position and their district will elect them accordingly."

Henderson:  "Would you discourage people from voting for Democrats who are running against pro-choice Republicans?"

Lehman:  "In my position as Republican National Committeewoman I’ll be supporting the Republican Party principles and working as a Republican National Committee member to help Iowa stay first in the nation."

Henderson:  "But that’s not an answer to the question.  Would you discourage Republicans from voting from Democrats who are running against pro-choice Republicans?"

Lehman:  "I will always support Republican candidates who run for office and have made it through the primary and the issue that we have is to elect a new president, John McCain, and we need to work toward that."

Boshart:  "Same question for you Steve."

Scheffler:  "I would concur with her wholeheartedly.  I really don’t have anything else to add.  Our job is to elect Republicans and that’s what we’re going to do."

Boshart: "It struck me listening to the show:  is it somewhat ironic talking about the need to build the party when the party just had control of the White House for eight years?  Usually that’s a position of strength to come off of, not a situation where…"

Scheffler;  "I think what I was alluding to was more the Republican Party of Iowa needs some rebuilding.  It’s not that anything’s been done wrong, it’s just that we need to rebuilt the party and make the grassroots a lot stronger and reach out to more people to get them activated and raise more money, so those are challenges we’re going to face and we’re going to overcome."

Boshart:  "It’s just a matter of re-energizing?"

Scheffler:  "Yep and I think a lot of it is because the message has been lost.  Sometimes our message as Republicans and Democrats becomes kind of like we’re all in the middle, where there’s not clarification on the differences so we need to make those clarifications that are crystal clear and those issues which are winning issues for Republicans if we just enunciate them, so it’s just a matter of getting messaging done better than we have in the past."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.