Iowa GOP’s state central committee elects chairman

I’m @ Iowa GOP headquarters in Des Moines on this Saturday morning, to live blog the opening part of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee meeting, the part where they plan to elect a chairman.

Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a Republican National Committeeman from Iowa, began by nominating  A.J. Spiker for a two-year term.  (Scheffler delivered the opening prayer today, asking God to help the GOP get “up off the mat” after the 2012 elections.) 

“A.J. quickly earned the respect & trust of the RNC,” according to Scheffler, who also mentioned the “attack on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucus status” at the convention in Tampa” during which Spiker led the effort to maintain Iowa’s position as the lead-off event in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.

Scheffler also said: “A.J. is not afraid to stand up for traditional values.”

Tim Moran, a member of the state central committee, then nominated Bill Schickel, the former mayor of Mason City, a former state legislator & the current co-chair of the party. Schickel unsucessfully ran for chairman in early 2012, after Matt Strawn resigned due to the fall-out from the Romney-wins-then-Santorum-wins-the-Caucuses announcements. 

Both Spiker & Schickel were given 10 minutes to speak.  Spiker began: “I’m running because I believe in the principles of the R Party of Iowa…I believe in our platform.”

Spiker mentioned raising $600,000 and managing $5 million that passed through for voter turn-out; he cited the decision to give each 2012 legislative candidate a contribution from the state party.  He says the Iowa GOP today has $400,000 in the bank.   

Spiker addressed what he called “unfounded criticism” and “snipers” who accuse him of being a Ron Paul-focused party leader. “I’ve worked very closely with Republicans of all philosophies,” Spiker said. 

But Spiker said his vision for the role of party chairman was to “stand for the principles of the party…I am not a state party chair whose intention is to walk to party line.”

Spiker got an “Amen” from several of the three dozen audience members watching to proceedings when he said he will “never apologize for social conservatism” or throw grass-roots activists under the bus.

Schickel spoke next, strolling away from the lectern where Spiker stood to deliver his remarks.  Schickel began by asking the state central committee to “rise above individual personal personalities and vote for what’s best for the entire Republican Party of Iowa, all 600,000 members.”

Schickel said if Republicans are “honest” in evaluating 2012 election results “we can see that the promise is not being fulfilled today the way it should be…Conservatives suffered a defeat.

“…Our party is in danger of becoming a dinosaur unless we change, unless we make dramatic changes.”

Schickel accused Spiker of running a “good old boys campaign” for chairman.

“Let’s start talking about what we’re for.  I propose we have 100 ideas for the future, for the future betterment of Iowa,” Schickel said. “…Our platform is a beautiful document. It’s about time we started implemented some of those things.”

Schickel also pledged to boost fundraising by five percent over 2008 fundraising totals.

The two men then literally stood before the central committee and answered questions from committee members.  Of note: both expressed support for continuing the Iowa GOP’s presidential Straw Poll in August of 2015.

Spiker was asked if Republican Governor Terry Branstad had publicly endorsed his bid to continue as party chair.  Spiker, who in November had a public feud with Branstad over the future of the Straw Poll, said he did not have Branstad’s backing. “He hasn’t unendorsed me publicly either,” Spiker said, drawing laughter.

When asked the same question, Schickel said: “the governor has not endorsed my candidacy.”

State Central Committee member Loras Schulte described a sort of UNwelcome mat the Iowa GOP put out for Pat Buchanan’s supporters in 1996.  Schickel responded: “After Buchanan lost, you didn’t bring the entire Buchanan team in to run the Republican Party of Iowa.”  The comment drew a gasp or two from the audience.

At 12:14 p.m. the secret ballots were distributed.  At 12:21 p.m. Spiker reconvened the meeting and asked everyone to remain seated until the announcement.  At 12:22 p.m. the results were announced: Spiker received 13 votes; Schickel got 5 votes. Spiker won.

“Congratulations, A.J.,” Schickel said and everyone in the room except for those typing applauded.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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