Archive for August, 2009

GOP Rising Tide ’09, Part II: Candidates to Watch in ’10

Friday, August 28th, 2009

In my post earlier this week, I discussed the meeting of the RGA’s Executive Roundtable and visit to Aspen Institute on August 3-4. I’ll continue here.

On August 7 and 8, I was honored to attend and speak at the Republican Governor’s Association 2010 Candidate Forum in Sun Valley, Idaho.  It was essentially a training forum for gubernatorial candidates.  More than 25 candidates attended, and speakers and panelists included Newt Gingrich, Governors Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Sonny Perdue, Jeb Bush, Linda Lingle, John Engler, and myself (not a governor, of course).  Idaho Governor Butch Otter, who also spoke, was our gracious host.

In my many years in politics, this was the best-organized and most professional political and policy event I have ever attended. The very subject matter –- focusing on a positive center-right agenda that would truly address the problems of the states and help people and communities –- was extraordinarily inspiring.

Newt pretty well laid out the themes of the conference in his opening night discussion about what our current and upcoming candidates need to do:

  1. Tell voters what you are for, why you are for it, and how it helps people and communities.
  2. Remember that as a candidate and governor, you are the leader of the state and need to be visionary and is a value setter.
  3. As governor (and as a candidate) recruit top talent to fill important positions – not just those people you know.
  4. Keep focus on the truly important vs. the urgent: the urgent too often overtakes the important, to the detriment of key goals of government.

Newt, Barbour, Engler, Bush, Perdue, and Lingle followed with superb presentations and discussions, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, “focused on building campaigns based on fiscal conservatism, effective governance and how to answer Democrat initiatives on health care; as well as bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry.”

Perhaps most inspiring was the quality and excellence of the candidates.  All were impressive and gave me great confidence in Republican prospects in the 37 gubernatorial races coming up in 2010.  To mention a few in key states:

  • Scott Walker is the 41-year-old three-term County Executive for Milwaukee County, and he has illustrated what it takes to win in a blue county, and a media market that contains 42% of all Wisconsin voters.  He has governed from the center and cut county government debt by 10%, reduced county workforce by over 20%, authorized eight budgets without increasing the property tax, and managed a small surplus despite the falling economy in 2008.  He won re-election in 2008 with 59% of the vote in a county where Obama received 67% of the vote in 2008.
  • Mary Fallin, a member of Congress who is our candidate in Oklahoma and whose consistent center-right, forward looking agenda will make her Oklahoma’s next Governor.
  • Bill McCollum, former Congressman and current Attorney General of Florida has a record of excellence in both his former and current post.  The voters of Florida seem to agree – witness his victory as Attorney General, and his lead in the polls.
  • Charlie Baker, who has been a highly successful health care executive with prior experience in state government, is our candidate in Massachusetts.  I believe he will follow in the footsteps of Bill Weld and Mitt Romney and become the next red governor in this bluest of blue states.

There were many other interesting and excellent candidates, but let me stop here. There will be much time to discuss them, and I look forward to writing more soon. This event and the whole week of August 3 to 8 increased my enthusiasm for supporting our gubernatorial candidates in 2009 and 2010, and reinforced my conviction that these are the men and women who will lead us back to a majority party.

GOP Rising Tide ’09: It Came From the States

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

I have written before of the paramount importance of governors in providing leadership to the Republican Party and to our country. One my joys this year has been to work closely with Governors Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty in my role as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association Executive Roundtable.

My view is that we are poised to win the two gubernatorial races this year with Bob McDonnell capturing Virginia and Chris Christie becoming governor of New Jersey.  Yes, there is a lot of time between now and Election Day, but I feel good about both of these key races.  Just as in 1993, with victories for George Allen and Christie Todd Whitman in these states, this will mark a turning point for the Republicans’ march back to a majority center-right party.

Keep in mind, the quality of candidates really matters, and over 50% of newly elected members of Congress and the Senate in 1994 made the decision to run after being emboldened by the Allen and Whitman wins.

Four days during early August reaffirmed my conviction that the revival of the Republican Party will be led by our governors and gubernatorial candidates. In this post, I will address the first of two separate events.

On August 3 and 4, Governors Barbour, Pawlenty, and Rick Perry along with a strong group of Roundtable members attended the annual Aspen Institute conference.  It was an invigorating two days, and we were all particularly impressed by the forward-looking, problem-solving approach of the governors.  We started with Haley speaking on energy to a bipartisan audience at the Aspen Institute.  He was strong, articulate, balanced, and his speech was well-received.  That evening, we had a buffet reception at our home, highlighted by insightful remarks from Tim Pawlenty.

The next day we had panel discussions with Haley and former governor and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt leading health care and Gov. Perry leading the discussion on reviewing our economy and creating jobs. Rick also spoke that night at a dinner hosted by Roundtable members Rick and Erica Horvitz, who hosted a wonderful Western dinner at their beautiful Wildcat Ranch.

It was an opportunity to review how far we have come this cycle. As an organization, we have recruited over 225 top executives, entrepreneurs, and other people of great merit who contribute $25,000 per year to the RGA and attend a series of policy oriented sessions with our governors.  This means that over the two year election cycle leading to 2010, the RGA has another $11million to pump into key races, and it is growing.

This entire event reminded me why I love politics.  No, it didn’t have the grassroots spontaneity of the incredibly impactful Tea Party movement, but  it was a committed group of people enjoying in deeply substantive discussions of the key problems facing our country, enjoying a camaraderie in a setting of environmental beauty, and getting to know our political leaders in an up close and personal way.

In my next post, I’ll talk about our Candidate Forum the following weekend.