In recent years, we’ve seen a handful of state Republican parties struggle with dramatic internal tensions. The Alaska GOP and Nevada GOP, for example, have both seen their party structures challenged, largely as the result of divisions between establishment Republicans and Ron Paul followers.
But to see a real mess, take a look at the Republican Party of Iowa.
Over the weekend, Ron Paul backers were replaced in the state party’s leadership after a series of troubles, most notably fundraising. As it turns out, Iowa Paulites made little effort to fill the campaign coffers – fundraising in the first quarter of this election year reached a decade-long low. As Derek Willis noted, 2013 fundraising for the state GOP was half of what it was in 2005 and long-time donors have given up on financing the state party.
So, Iowa GOP activists decided to make a change. After a Paulite stepped down as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa – he’s joining Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) political action committee – party officials backed a change in direction. Did they go back to more establishment types? Not exactly.
Despite some reluctance from several board members, two religious conservatives were elected to the top two leadership positions at the Republican Party of Iowa on Saturday.Danny Carroll of the Family Leader was elected chairman and Gopal Krishna of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition was elected co-chairman during a meeting of the 18-member governing board at party headquarters in Des Moines.
When we talk about social conservatives on the far-right fringe, we’re talking about guys like Danny Carroll. As Ed Kilgore noted, “Aficionados of Iowa’s presidential politics may recall that Carroll was co-chair of Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 campaign in the state. In 2010, he made waves by refusing to endorse Branstad after he defeated social conservative kingpin Bob Vander Plaats (the other Huck ‘08 co-chair) in the GOP gubernatorial primary. In the runup to the 2012 Caucuses, Carroll surfaced as the Iowa director of the short-lived presidential campaign of Judge Roy Moore. And at present, Carroll is the lobbyist for Vander Plaats’ famous Family Leader organization.”
The Family Leader organization – which is actually spelled in all caps, except for a lower-case “i” – is perhaps best known for demanding that presidential candidates endorse anti-gay pledges before the presidential caucuses. And now Carroll is the head of the state GOP.
And just to make things a little weirder, the Des Moines Register report added that those who elected Carroll as the new chair were “mistakenly thinking they were casting a vote to close nominations and move to ballots.”
It’s quite a finely tuned machine they’re running, isn’t it?
Keep in mind, this isn’t exactly a good time for the Republican Party of Iowa to be struggling with empty coffers and deep intra-party divisions: the Hawkeye State is home this year to a competitive, open U.S. Senate race and a gubernatorial race. In the former, the Democrat is favored but Republicans have a shot, and in the latter, the Republican is favored but the advantage is hardly insurmountable.
It’s not a great time, in other words, for the Iowa GOP to be mired in an embarrassing mess.
Update: The above piece from the Des Moines Register is from a few weeks ago, but the formal shift occurred just a few days ago, with new state board members taking office: “Iowa is the first state to fully strip power from liberty-movement followers who led a charge on state parties in 2012.”
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