July 25, 2013

State Republican parties mired in dysfunction

Democrats are not immune to such problems, but the conflicts on the Republican side highlight the tug of war over the GOP's future as national leaders work to improve the party's brand.

By Steve Peoples / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

The Republican National Committee is working to strengthen the state operations as well.

Priebus on Wednesday announced the addition of state-level directors in 12 states: California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Their tasks include working with state parties to coordinate campaign efforts, planning GOP events across their states and collecting voter data, according to the RNC, which has more than 125 staffers already spread across the states, with many more hires expected by the end of the year.

"We're building the most expansive field program the GOP has ever seen, and we're doing it earlier than ever before," Priebus said. "Our state directors will play key roles in building a permanent field operation to be successful in elections this year, in 2014, in 2016 and beyond."

The first wave of hires is focused where the party faces high-profile elections in 2013 and 2014. Both Virginia and New Jersey feature gubernatorial contests this fall. And with the U.S. Senate majority at stake, Republicans are eyeing 2014 pickup opportunities in Montana, West Virginia and Louisiana.

In some states where new directors have yet to be hired, acute problems remain.

In Iowa, for example, the state GOP apparatus has become a reflection of the party's bitterly divided factions. Led by followers of libertarian-minded Ron Paul, the state party organization has quarreled with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and disputed his strategy for state government and party affairs.

The stakes are high in Iowa, where the GOP has an opportunity to win the U.S. Senate seat long occupied by Democrat Tom Harkin, who is not seeking re-election.

In Minnesota, Republicans have been salivating to unseat two Democratic incumbents, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. But Republicans there are at their weakest political point in more than 30 years. They hold no major offices, are in the minority of both legislative chambers and haven't won a statewide election since Tim Pawlenty secured a second term as governor in 2006. Their candidate for Senate in 2012 mustered a bare 30 percent of the vote.

The Minnesota GOP has endured leadership shake-ups. Strife between old-guard members and Paul adherents lingers. And the GOP is struggling to get out from under a mountain of debt.

In Maine, Republicans are working to retain the governor's seat, although Gov. Paul LePage is expected to face a challenging re-election in a state that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also faces re-election next year, although a serious challenger has yet to emerge.

"The Republican Party in Maine – and certainly in other states – is going through a period of redefinition," Bennett said. "I think people are ready to move beyond that and to find common ground within the party."


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