Tulsa County Republican Convention 2013: Christiansen, Vuillemont-Smith win straw polls
Today, March 23, 2013, the Tulsa County Republican Party held its biennial convention at the Jenks High School Performing Arts Center. In the spring of each odd-numbered year, Oklahoma Republicans gather in precinct caucuses, where they elect precinct officers and elect delegates to the County Convention who elect a county party chairman and vice chairman, two State Committee members, and two Congressional District Committee members to a two-year term. The county convention also elects delegates to the state convention, where a state chairman and vice chairman are chosen for a two-year term. 375 delegates were present.
(There is also a quadrennial series of meetings at the precinct, county, district, and state level, for the purpose of election national convention delegates and members of the Republican National Committee.)
Because of a change in the state party rules, there are no longer any gender quotas in precinct, county, and state Republican offices. Where we used to elect a state committeeman, state committeewoman, district committeeman, and district committeewoman, we now simply elect two members to each committee, which changes the political calculus considerably. All nominees for a particular committee were on the ballot for both seats. A coalition of Ron Paul supporters and Tea Party supporters united around a consistent slate, to the point that the candidate designated for the second seat voted against herself and for the designated first-seat candidate when the first seat was up for election. They had a near-majority in the hall with enough other supporters to prevail.
Here are the results:
Chairman: Mike McCutchin, the current vice chairman, was elected chairman without opposition.
Vice Chairman: Joanne Tyree, a long-time party and campaign volunteer, was elected vice chairman without opposition.
State Committee: There were six candidates for two seats: Bruce Baker, Rachel Brewer, Joanna Francisco, Charlotte Harer, Chris Medlock, T. C. Ryan. Ryan, 28, and Francisco, 44, were elected. Both were active in support of Ron Paul for president, and Ryan was also very involved in the successful Stop Vision 2 campaign.
Ryan fell just short of a first-round victory for the first seat with 48%; Francisco and Baker were eliminated and Medlock withdrew in support of Harer. Ryan received 60% of the vote on the second round to win. For the second seat, Medlock, Brewer, and Baker withdrew and urged support for Harer; Francisco won.
District Committee: The winners were Don Wyatt, 66, one of the incumbents, who also runs Boondoggle Blog, and Amanda Teegarden, 57, of OK-SAFE. The other candidates were incumbent committeewoman Donna Mills and Aaron Brewer.
A straw poll was taken in the Tulsa Mayor's race and the Tulsa County Commission District 3 special election, which will both be on the June 11 primary ballot. Although the mayor's race is officially non-partisan, Bill Christiansen and Dewey Bartlett Jr are both registered Republicans; Bartlett Jr was even a leading member of "Republicans for Kathy [Taylor]" in 2009; and both are vying for the support of Republcans. The District 3 race is likely to be settled in the primary, as it was the last time the seat was open in 2006. The results:
Tulsa Mayor: Former City Councilor Bill Christiansen 114, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr 56.
Tulsa County Commission District 3: Ronda Vuillemont-Smith 102, Ron Peters 24, Don Crall 17, Terry Simonson 6. Vuillemont-Smith heads the local 9/12 Project chapter and was a leader of the opposition to Vision2. Ron Peters is the former State Representative for District 70. Don Crall is from Bixby. Terry Simonson is former county commission chief deputy and chief of staff to Dewey Bartlett Jr.
Brandon Perkins announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat at the convention; his name was not on the straw poll ballot. I believe that he is a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the brother of Mark Perkins, who ran as an independent for mayor of Tulsa in 2009.
The convention voted overwhelmingly to approve the report of the Platform Committee and voted to send all county convention delegates as Tulsa County's delegates to the state convention.
There were some technical hiccups with registration which delayed completion of the credentials report, but we managed to adjourn at about 5 p.m., an hour later than planned but well before our move-out time.
Randy Krehbiel reported on the convention for the Tulsa World. 375 delegates checked in Saturday morning and were issued credentials; Krehbiel gave the number as 300. While I'd agree that the contested elections were a better indication of the shifts in the party than uncontested elections, having served four years as Tulsa County's state committeeman, I don't agree that the "state and district committee members... are ultimately responsible for party policy," at least not to the level of influence that that statement implies. They are indeed members of the county party central committee, along with the chairman and vice chairman, but the chairman has the power to appoint the executive committee, and he is the party's public face, and it's the county committee, consisting of all the precinct chairmen and vice chairmen, that officially governs the party between conventions.
Both the state committee and district committee are mainly focused on the nuts and bolts of party governance -- holding conventions, filling vacancies in party offices, making recommendations on rules changes -- rather than on governmental policy. The state committee is the governing body of the state party between conventions, but Tulsa County's two votes are a mere drop in the bucket; every county has two members, and all the Republican legislators, members of Congress, and statewide elected officials are also members of the state committee. The state committee meets quarterly, mainly to hear reports on party fundraising and activities. If the chairman or vice chairman resigns, the state committee elects a replacement, and that's happened fairly often in the last 10 years. The state committee meets right before the state convention to vote on whether to recommend proposed state rules changes to the convention, which must approve any rules changes.
The main concern of the district committee -- which consists of two members from each county in the district -- is putting on the quadrennial congressional district convention that elects three delegates and three alternates to the national convention. The district committee also elects a district chairman and vice chairman. In Oklahoma, congressional district chairmen have traditionally been involved in candidate recruitment for state legislature, an especially important role in the 1990s when the GOP was in the minority.
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