GOP Chairman Candidates offer Clear Choice
The annual Christmas lunch of the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches, which featured the beautiful voices of the King’s Academy Choir, also provided a glimpse into the views, plans and styles of the two candidates for GOP County Chairman. Moderated by RCPB President Rick Kozell, the candidate were asked four questions concerning party ideals, finding qualified candidates, developing grassroots and fundraising.
Ira Sabin has been active in Republican politics for many years, and recalls working for Richard Nixon and organizing for Ronald Reagan. A New York native with a background in financial services, he is currently the party Treasurer and says he has raised over $100,000 for the local party. Ira is very much a PBC GOP insider.
Marie Hope Davis, currently President of the Republican Club of Palm Beach, has raised the funds and sponsored the GOP Victory Center in the last few Presidential election cycles. A past manager of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and a Salvation Army fundraiser, Marie has experience and influence in the community at large.
Both candidates acknowledged some party shortcomings during the 2012 election cycle, particularly in the area of miscommunication and overlap with non-party grassroots resources on the same team. It should be mentioned that many of these outside groups are now rethinking their relationship to the party, and whoever becomes the new chairman will have both an opportunity to draw strength from these groups as well a challenge to appear relevant to them. Some of the grassroots have become disgusted with the party and plan to go their own way. Others plan to join the REC and try to change it from within. It is a given that very few are happy with the status quo.
To his credit, Ira has been sighted at Boca and Wellington Tea Party meetings during the year and has maintained contacts in that community. He is very invested in the current structure and political staff though, and does not hold the view that the lack of coordination, abdication of control to the Romney campaign, and weak precinct organization was the fault of staff and current leadership. He does say that he would not relinquish control to any future campaign on his watch. His style is top-down, the buck stops here. He sees the Chairman as the decision maker and is not a fan of lots of committees and advisory panels.
Marie on the other hand, believes in collaborative leadership – that the collective wisdom of the REC and community leaders she would recruit for board positions are needed for the future of the county party. She has made a stronger pitch to the grassroots groups, even to the extent of expanding the REC scope to include 912 and other groups, and would endeavor to get all these organizations to work as a team. “All elections are local” she believes, and it takes the attention and effort of those both in the REC and in the community to win them.
Ira presents his skills, knowledge and passion as the key qualifications for the job. Marie sees herself as more well-rounded – a CEO rather than an expert. The candidates are different enough to present a clear choice to the voters on the REC.
As we close out 2012, GOP party registration is not much more than it was when George W. Bush was elected in 2000, and as a percentage has fallen from 35% to 29%. By contrast, Democrat registrations have grown 30% in numbers, and as a percentage have stayed at about 45%. The growth group is independents who are expected to exceed Republican registrations by 2014. A much higher percentage (estimated at 42%) of these independents voted for Romney than for any other Republican Presidential candidate in the last 12 years. Few of them voted for down ticket Republicans though. Fixing that problem, either by converting registrations or by appealing to the independents directly is a task for the new chairman. Who is best equipped to deal with that issue?