Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Davidson County Republican Party caucuses and convention goat rodeo

I don't guess I had ever heard the term "goat rodeo" before, but today at the Davidson County Republican Party caucuses and convention, while a lengthy floor debate was going on with lots of points of order being made, someone said to me, "This is a real 'goat rodeo."' "Goat rodeo" is a term meaning a chaotic, unmanageable situation. That about describes the DCRP convention today.

The caucuses and convention took place today at the Maxwell House Hotel.  In previous years the Party would have the caucuses on one Saturday and then the next Saturday, have the convention. This year, they had both on the same day. That, I think, was an improvement. Not many people want to give up two Saturdays in a row for the Party.

The caucuses are actually 35 separate meeting, one for each council district.  At the district caucus meetings any bonafied Republican may attend and elect delegates to the convention. There is almost always more slots available than people attending so almost always anyone who attends can be elected as a delegate.  I live n District 17 and we were authorized six delegates and there were only two people from District 17 who attended the caucus. All totaled there was only about 200 people who attended.

The caucuses convened at 9AM this morning and that went relatively smoothy. I assume most attendees had preregistered, so there were no long lines to check credentials.  The caucus meetings were over by about 10AM.  The convention did not convene until 12:30PM however so we had to kill two and half hours.  I went off my diet for the big breakfast buffet and had a most enjoyable breakfast with three other people who were attending. We had meaningful discussions of weighty political issues.

When the convention convened, that is when the goat rodeo started. First of all, outgoing Chair Bob Ries made a speech, which I thought was alright but he took some people by surprise as that was not listed on the agenda.  He laid out a list of proposed reforms for the Party and expressed his frustration with his tenure as chairman.

The next order of business was the calling of the roll to determine that a quorum existed to conduct business.  Thirty percent of the districts have to be present to have a quorum.  Always in the past, it was "districts" that had to be represented, but outgoing Chairman Bob Ries said it had to be precincts.  He quoted from the state party bylaws and insisted that we had to call the roll of precincts.  That would have taken a while and would have been chaotic. While there are 35 districts there is something like 168 or so precincts. I know in which district I live and where I vote, but not the precinct number.  I am sure most people who attended have their voter id card with them, but calling the roll of precincts would have taken time. After some back and forth, Bob Ries relented and districts rolls were called instead of precincts. I could not hear the discussion of those without a microphone so I don't know what facts were presented to resolve this issue but it was resolved and we moved on. I think calling the roll of precincts would have been fine, but one would think everyone would be on the same page, and this would not be a last minute surprise.

After the roll call, the next item was to elect a county Party chair. There were three candidates whose names were placed in nomination: Jim Garrett, Connie Hunter and Tres Wittum. There were short nominating and campaign speeches by the three candidates and then the real chaos started.

There was a floor challenge to the candidacy of Tres Wittum.  However, there was parliamentary maneuvering first as to how to make the challenge. Then, there was debate about how to deal with the challenge once the proper language was used to make the challenge.  The credentials committee met outside the big room, in the hall, to deliberate. It took a while.  The rules committee came back with a three-to-two vote for a ruling that said, his candidacy would be permitted but he did not meet the qualifications.  WHAT?  A lot of discussion ensued with points of order and raised voices.

There were conflicting information about why the committee ruled in this fashion and I am not convinced the committee ruled the right way.  There was a motion made to stay the election until a determination by the State Party could be made that the committee had made a proper ruling.  That motion was ruled out of order because, as it was explained, the State Party will rule the County Party acted improperly, if  the county did act improperly, but only on an appeal, after the fact.  The State Party will not rule prior to the County Party's action. Other motions and discussion occurred then the actions of the credentials committee was determined to be final and not subject to acceptance or rejection by the convention.

After that was settled then came the election of chairman. Jim Garrett got the most votes followed by Tres Wittum, but neither got a majority, so there had to be a run off election between these two candidates. While they were still counting ballots for the run off contest, I had to leave.  My wife is an invalid and I can not go anywhere without a sitter for her.  I had arranged through an agency to have a sitter until 2:30PM. I thought that would be plenty sufficient. It wasn't.  I still do not know who was elected to leadership positions in the Party. I will update when that information is known.

The Davidson County Republican Party does not run like a "fine-tuned machine."

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