Beltway Happenings 
Dec. 1, 2010--The Republican National Conservative Caucus and FreedomWorks (+) hosted a forum for candidates for RNC chairman at the Washington Hilton.  Despite Republicans' strong showing in the 2010 midterm elections, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has committed a number of gaffes and there has been concern over excessive spending and inadequate fundraising during his tenure.  It is not clear if Steele, who was elected on the sixth ballot in January 2009, is seeking another term.  Declared candidates Saul Anuzis and Ann Wagner and exporatory candidates Gentry Collins and Mike Duncan participated in this forum.  Two other prospects who did not attend were Maria Cino, who is seeking to speak with each of the 168 RNC members before doing any overt campaigning (she was at 130 as of Monday), and Chris Healy, who was engaged in family matters in Arizona.  If Steele does not seek another term, Norm Coleman or Reince Priebus could also run.  In addition to this public event, the RNCC planned private interviews with candidates and potential candidates on December 2. 
Flanking the stage, in addition to the American flag, was the yellow Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flag.  In his remarks opening the forum, James Bopp, RNC committeman from Indiana, said that the candidates "that are here today show that they understand the importance of the Tea Party movement."  The audience included an interesting mix of Tea Party and conservative activists as well as about 20 RNC members.  Attendees ranged from Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute and RNC committeeman from Virginia since 1988, to LaDonna Hale Curzon, executive producer of Sarah Palin Radio. 
In response to a question from Anna Puig of Kitchen Table Patriots in Pennsylvania, the four agreed on the need to rebuild confidence of the donor base.  (Collins said the RNC will have to raise $400-$425 million in the 2012 cycle).  Parker LaCoste, who recently managed Mark Zaccaria's congressional campaign in RI-2, asked what the candidates would do to make the RNC competitive in all 50 states.  Dee Armstrong from the Blue Ridge Patriots in West Virginia asked "how do you plan on integrating the Tea Party movement into the RNC?"  (Armstrong later said she was disappointed that there was not more direct recognition of the Tea Party movement's role in the successes of November 2, and that she had hoped for more specific responses.  Another attendee, Michael Master, author of "Save America Now! The New Revolution to Save Freedom & Liberty," later expressed the view that none of the current candidates "gets it" and that Sarah Palin would make an ideal party chair.).  A Tea Party organizer from Portland, OR asked about the role of technology and about young voters.  Via Facebook Jack Ellis asked how people can trust Republicans to act as conservatives, citing the example of a number of Senators who did not support a moratorium on earmarks.
Bill Crocker, RNC committeeman from Texas (left), and Morton Blackwell, RNC committeeman from Virginia (right), asked whether the candidates would support a party unity pledge.  The idea, advanced by Blackwell, would seek to deter candidates such as Dede Scozzafava, Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and Lisa Murkowski, who have ended up running against Republican nominees.
Another candidate debate, organized by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, is scheduled for January 3, 2011.  The 168 RNC member will vote for chairman at the party's Winter Meeting to be held in the DC area on January 12-15, 2011.

Copyright © 2010  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action. All rights reserved.
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