Sunday, April 1, 2012

Q & A: Scott Shaffer, Candidate for Republican National Committeeman

I asked Anne Arundel County Central Committee member Scott Shaffer, now a candidate for Republican National Committeeman, to elaborate on the reasons why he is challenging two-term Committeeman Louis Pope. Below are the three questions I asked him, and his unedited responses.

1) What prompted you to run?

When Bob Ehrlich won the governor’s race in 2002, it was supposed to usher in a new era for the Maryland Republican Party. Since then however, the Maryland Republican Party has not won any statewide elections. In the last election, the party did not even field a full slate of candidates for those statewide contests. In a year in which Republicans saw huge gains in many other states, we lost seats in the state senate (where 15% of the seats went uncontested). The modest gains we saw in the House of Delegates came from candidates like Herb McMillan in my district, who ran strong campaigns independent of the mainstream party – they won despite having an (R) next to their name rather than because of it. In a rematch of gubernatorial candidates, we received fewer votes than we did four years earlier. Internally, our state party was consumed with infighting, in part over a Rule 11 waiver requested by the National Committeeman.

In short, we’ve been going backwards for far too long. It’s time to move forward. Two years ago we cleaned house and replaced most of the party officers with much-needed new blood. Now, it’s time to complete the process. I decided to run because I don’t want to see us repeat the past eight years. We need a different approach, and I believe my approach to the position would move the party forward while the incumbent would continue with business as usual.

2) What role should the national committeeman play other than those functions presently fulfilled by the incumbent and historically by his predecessors?

Ultimately, the only function of the state party that matters is to get Republicans elected in Maryland. In the past, the National Committeeman has been more of a behind-the-scenes fundraiser. Fundraising alone doesn’t win elections though if we don’t even have candidates on the ballot. Furthermore, many of our past fundraising efforts have been undercut by poor spending decisions, such as the low performing Victory Centers. Our problem isn’t that we can’t raise money; it’s that the money we do raise isn’t spent effectively.

There are also certain ceremonial functions that our National Committeeman has historically performed: serving on RNC subcommittees, attending numerous black-tie dinners, playing host at the national convention. These may raise a Committeeman’s national profile somewhat, but at the end of the day they don’t translate into votes within Maryland.

Finally, as the state party’s representative to the RNC, the county central committees should expect a certain level of constituent service from their National Committeeman. However, our current National Committeeman has focused almost exclusively on advancing RNC initiatives outside of Maryland rather than within. I don’t see how anyone can truly represent the interests of Maryland Republicans without being directly involved in their efforts. Being outnumbered 2:1 by Democrats, we need all hands on deck if we hope to make any inroads. As a party officer and voting member of the Executive Committee, the National Committeeman should be involved in all facets of the organization within the state as well. That includes building the brand, candidate recruitment, and strategic direction.

3) Why should state Republicans care about this election?

This election is not just about who our National Committeeman should be – it’s about what the National Committeeman should be. For too long, these positions have been treated as entitlements, and bestowed upon former party Chairs in unchallenged elections. They’ve been a reward for past service, when they should be based on future expectations. The State Central Committee has a unique opportunity at our upcoming convention to redefine the position in a way which will best serve our state party. This vote will be a sign to Maryland Republicans as to whether the state party is serious about gaining ground on the Democratic monopoly, or whether we’re content with the status quo. 

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