Republicans enjoyed another mid-term "wave" Election Year in 2014 (following the 2010 Tea Party wave) that saw them grab control of the U.S. Senate as well as many more important top-ticket statewide seats around the country. Yet as 2014 comes to a close, Election Day victories have not translated into GOP harmony.
As GOP activists turn their attention back to internal political struggles, discontent among the various wings of the Party continues to brew. Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call is expected to face a challenge to his re-election bid in 2015 despite Republican success at the ballot box (more on that in a moment), a trend that is not unique to Colorado. Check out this story last week from Arizona Capitol Times:
Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham is facing an insurgent challenge from the right despite his party’s sweep of statewide races and successful defense of Republican majorities at the Capitol.
Lori Urban, a longtime party activist and president of the Paradise Republican Women’s Club, is taking on Graham in the party’s election for chairman in January. Urban and other activists are panning Graham for failing to expand the GOP’s legislative majorities in a year when Republicans, riding high on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment, won seat after seat in local and federal elections across the country. They also accused him of failing to listen to the party faithful, whom they said are clamoring for closed primaries.
In response, Graham has lined up endorsements from party loyalists and conservative icons, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and S1070 author Russell Pearce. [Pols emphasis]
This is politics at its most absurd, to be sure. Arizona's Republican Party Chairman presided over sweeping victories in 2014, yet his job is so unsafe that he has had to recruit the wackiest members of the far right to stand behind him in a show of support…and it still might not be enough to save his job.
Here in Colorado, we've already seen competing factions emerging from both the Tea Party and supporters of Dudley Brown's unruly Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO). The schism between Republicans and RMGO rose to new levels in Jefferson County, with the two sides in open conflict leading up to the June Primary Election, but that's far from the only problem facing Call's re-election.
Republican activists remain irritated at the hefty salary awarded to their Party Chairman, a practice that began in 2007 when Dick Wadhams was elected Chair and pushed through changes to the Party bylaws that turned a largely-volunteer position into a full-time job. The State Republican Party was a mess when Wadhams took over, which made it much easier for Wadhams to advocate for a "temporary" change that would allow him to earn more money in a sort-of dual role as Chairman and Executive Director. But the "temporary" change initiated by Wadhams wasn't altered when Call succeeded Wadhams as Chair in 2011; in fact, the Republican Party (via the Colorado Republican Committee) now pays monthly salaries for Call as Chairman and Shana Kohn as Executive Director. Democrats also now employ a full-time Chairman and Executive Director, though the salaries are considerably higher for the GOP (see chart at right).
There is no real standard model for paying a State Party Chairman, a practice that varies widely from state to state, but many Republican activists in Colorado want to go back to a non-paid Chair in favor of spending more money on staff positions and down-ballot "coordination" efforts. Even if GOP activists can't eliminate the idea of a paid Chairman altogether, Call may be challenged to explain how he justifies a $8,274 monthly salary (not including benefits) while also working as an attorney at Hale Westfall, LLP. Call will also likely come under fire for his decision to spend millions on a new "independent expenditure committee website" that was unveiled in August with front-page images of natural landscapes in Utah; the project was dubbed Call's "brain child," and he will defend it by pointing to the Republicans taking a one-seat majority in the state senate (though RMGO will lay claim to many of those victories).
As he seeks a third term, Call has the support of many Republican officials, including the cherubic new Senator-elect, Cory Gardner. But as both Republicans and Democrats have seen in the past, the vocal minority of the Party base doesn't really care about those endorsements. Call can also rightly point to success at the ballot box as reason enough to grant him re-election, though that may end up meaning as little to the Party faithful in Colorado as it apparently does in Arizona. Do elections matter to the base when it comes time to select their Party leaders? We'll find out soon enough.