Opinion: AZ GOP has always been highly conservative, so Kelli Ward is no aberration. And she brings skills that could put the party in great shape for 2020.
What will Kelli Ward’s chairmanship mean for the Arizona Republican Party?
One thing is clear: Being extremely conservative isn’t an aberration for the Arizona Republican Party.
In order to even vote for the state party chairman, an individual must collect enough petition signatures during the summer of an election year to qualify to be on the ballot.
Then, if their race is contested, that person must win the election. Once someone is elected precinct committeeman, the individual has to win election as a state committeeman if he/she wants to be eligible to vote for the chairman.
The individual then has to sit through several organizational meetings and make a pitch at an all-day meeting.
As you have probably guessed, the people who vote for the chairman are not your average voter. They are the most committed party insiders. That tends to make them very liberal on the Democrat side and very conservative on the Republican side.
Her election was far from an upset
So, Kelli Ward’s election was not really an upset. In fact, if we simply use the number of Twitter followers as a bellwether, Ward has more than 78,000. The previous chairman she defeated only had 1,400.
I suspect Democrats applauded her election because they are making the assumption that she will be divisive, controversial and lack basic competence in her job.
But there is a famous story in political circles of President Jimmy Carter being happy that Ronald Reagan had won the Republican nomination. The moral of the story is to be careful what you ask for.
I’m not sure what kind of chairman Ward will be. The job of a state party chairman has been described to me in the past as “the unwitting doing the impossible for the ungrateful.” If done correctly, it is literally the most thankless job in politics.
4 things Ward must do to succeed
That said, Ward has four immediate priorities:
First, she must raise money – and lots of it.
To this point, she may surprise a lot of people. In her campaign for the U.S. Senate, she had thousands of donors contribute small amounts of money. Grassroots donors were drawn to her energy and ultra-conservative appeal.
Now that she is state party chairman, she will have an opportunity to meet donors who can write much larger checks. If she is successful and combines her grassroots fundraising with donors who write four- and five-figure checks, the AZGOP could be in a strong financial position in 2020.
Second, she must motivate the party’s volunteer base in a positive way. More than just about anyone in the state, she has the ability to do this because of her strong grassroots network.
Third, she must hire the best staff available. That’s the only way to accomplish priority 1 and priority 2.
This will be the initial test that donors look to when determining what kind of a chairman she will be. If she hires activists with little or no experience at running a political party, she will play into the stereotype that so many are expecting.
If, however, she conducts a thorough search for her senior staff and works with elected officials to determine the best people for the job, she will send a message to donors that she’s serious about running a top-notch operation.
Fourth, she must deflect the spotlight from herself and put it on the nominees of the party at every level, from president to the state Legislature. This is arguably the one that causes many people to be apprehensive about her chairmanship.
Since she has run as a candidate for so long, her natural reaction will be to seek the spotlight for herself. In order to be an effective chairman, she should:
- shun the spotlight,
- reach across the party to people who opposed her,
- create a sense of genuine unity, and
- work hard to help elect all Republican nominees.
Democrats are counting on her not being up to the job of chairman. Many Republicans fear the same.
She has two years to prove her critics wrong. I’m pulling for her because I want the AZGOP to succeed, but I’m also withholding judgement until I see which direction she chooses.
Read the full story at AZ Central.