With all of the articles being written, and discussions taking place, about how the Republican Party chooses its presidential nominee, I thought it might be helpful to explain how the process works “inside” the Arizona Republican Party, of which I am a voting member.
That is, I am a precinct committeeman representing the Republican voters in my voting precinct. And I wish more conservatives would do the same. It’s not hard to do.
Ball Players vs. Spectators
First, keep in mind that when I refer to “the Republican Party,” I am referring to its voting members. That is, I am referring to those who went beyond registering to vote as a Republican (allowed in some states) or simply thinking of themselves as “a Republican.” They took the time and expended the effort to learn the process for becoming a “voting member” of the Party apparatus where they live.
And keep this in mind: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and most Republican Party state chairmen are not exactly encouraging Republicans to come “into” their little “party.” They would just as soon hope that you stay out.
The “Republicans In Name Only” who masquerade as Republicans “get” what I am about to explain here. They expend the little bit of effort involved in learning the Party’s inner workings and becoming voting members of the Party’s local committees – unlike the Maricopa County Republican Committee. Conservatives? Complaining about “the Republican Establishment” is so much easier. But does not change things.
Learning The Rules Of The Game – Basic American Political Participation
At this late date in the nomination process, with no single candidate seeming to have a clear path to getting to the bare majority number of delegates needed for a first-ballot victory (per the anticipated first-ballot rule used at the last convention – which could change), many candidates, pundits and voters are actually taking the time and making the effort to figure out that, in the end, the power to choose the Republican nominee resides in the delegates, and the people who elect the delegates.
Last summer, when Scott Walker suspended his campaign, one of his supporters commented that maybe, in the end, the nominee would be chosen by the delegates, regardless of the outcomes of the states’ primaries and caucuses. When Jeb Bush announced his candidacy, he said something about the best Republican candidate – him – needing to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general.” Or something. Was this a slip about what his ultimate strategy was – to hope for a brokered convention? The fact that Ted Cruz has been focusing on gaining delegates has been reported on since before the primaries began.
How It Works In Arizona – The Delegates Rule
So now let’s take a look at “how it works” in the Republican Party here in Arizona. Yes, we had a closed Republican Party presidential preference “primary election” (it’s really just a straw poll) on March 22, 2016. Donald Trump won 46 percent of the vote and Ted Cruz garnered 28 percent. Arizona is a winner-take-all state, so, assuming the “first ballot” rule remains in place, our 58 delegates are required, on the first ballot, to all cast their ballot for Donald Trump. Keep in mind that the delegates to the national convention vote on the convention rules – and that will not happen until the convention begins.
Who Are The Delegates?
So who are the delegates? And how are they elected? Well, three of the Arizona national convention delegates already have been elected. Per the Rules of the Republican Party, our Arizona Republican Party State Chairman, and our Republican National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, automatically are national convention delegates.
Precinct Committeemen In Arizona Elect All Of The Party Power Brokers
Who elected our State Chairman to his two-year term? Well, indirectly, the precinct committeemen.
Every two years, the Republican voters in each voting precinct get to elect one Republican to the volunteer office of precinct committeeman and one more for every 125 Republican voters in the precinct, or majority portion thereof. My precinct has twelve such positions. Maricopa County has 724 precincts, and in the 2014 primary election, only 54 of the precincts had contested elections. That is, in a given precinct, more Republicans were running than there were positions. Some precincts have as few as three precinct committeeman slots; some have more than fifty.
The precincts are located within the boundaries of the state’s thirty legislative districts, from which the voters elect a state senator and two state house representatives. Our state party bylaws allow for the precinct committeemen from each district to elect one state committeemen for every three elected precinct committeemen. The state committeemen then attend the mass meetings of the state Republican committee, at which they elect the state chairman and other state committee officers.
The precinct committeemen in every county and every legislative district elect the officers of those committees.
And, most importantly, under our state Bylaws, which have to comply with the Republican National Committee’s Rules of the Republican Party, the precinct committeemen – and only the precinct committeemen – elect the delegates to our state convention, who in turn, at our state presidential nominating convention, elect our national convention delegates (the 55 that have not yet been elected, three for each congressional district elected by the state convention delegates residing in each district and 27 “at large” elected by the whole body). To our state chairman’s credit, the state committee published “how it works” on the state committee’s web site – but they should have done this in the spring of 2015.
And who elected our national committeeman and national committeewoman? They serve four year terms on the RNC, and they were elected by the state convention delegates at our 2012 presidential nominating convention. Again, who elected the state convention delegates? The precinct committeemen.
Precinct Committeeman: Most Powerful Political Office In The World
So, the most important office in all of this is the office of precinct committeeman. And, after the 2014 primary election, more than half of these positions went begging here in Arizona. And that’s the average nationwide. Of about 400,000 of these positions in the Republican Party all across the country’s voting precincts, only about 200,000 are filled. Which means, conservatives, the Republican Party is there for the taking. Will you take it? So far, since 2008, few conservatives have stepped up. Damn few.
But, had a conservative Republican in Arizona wanted to have become a precinct committeeman to be in a position to vote for the state convention delegates, all he needed to do was volunteer for one of the vacant positions in his precinct (and, the odds were 50 percent that a vacancy existed).
So what is happening now? We had our delegate elections in the legislative districts by April 9. All of the state convention delegates will now show up at our April 30 state party presidential nominating convention in Mesa, Arizona.
Some Presidential Candidates Just Do Not “Get” What Matters
Last spring, I explained all of this to some of the Arizona RunBenRun people – that if they really wanted to help Ben Carson get the nomination, here in Arizona they needed to have his supporters become precinct committeemen by December 31, 2015 so they would be eligible to vote for the state convention delegates.
If they had filled up the vacant precinct committeeman slots, they could have gone to their respective legislative district committee delegate election meetings and voted for one another, after having filled as many of the precinct committeeman slots as possible. And, I advised a very close adviser of Ben Carson on how and why to carry out this strategy and how and why the candidate needed to make this pitch to his supporters.
Carson didn’t. Where is he now?
I also gave this strategy, back in 2010, one-on-one to one of the Republican presidential primary candidates before he launched his campaign. He listened. And then rejected it. Later, his campaign manager told me the reason the candidate would not talk about this to his supporters was because “the candidates just don’t talk about such things – that’s the job of the campaign managers in every state.” Or something.
Have enough Cruz supporters become state convention delegates to be able to elect a number of national convention delegates greater than the 25 percent of the Republican votes he received in the straw poll? Have enough Trump supporters become state convention delegates to be able to elect a number of national convention delegates greater than the 47 percent of the Republican votes he received in the straw poll?
When Trump was here in Arizona last year, he could have explained to his supporters that what he really needed them to do was get appointed to a vacant Republican precinct committeeman position so that they could be in a position to vote for one another to become state convention delegates. Like Ben Carson, he failed to do this.
So, will Cruz supporters or Trump supporters prevail in the election of the Arizona Republican Party national convention delegates?
Time will tell.
Daniel J. Schultz graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1978 and served as an Army Human Intelligence Officer. He now practices law. He has been a Republican Party precinct committeeman since 2007 and was a co-winner of the Conservative HQ Liberty Prize based on his e-book Taking Back Your Government: The Neighborhood Precinct Committeeman Strategy. State-specific and other information relating to The Neighborhood Precinct Committeeman Strategy can be found at http://precinctproject.us and http://theprecinctproject.wordpress.com. Mr. Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Maricopa County, Arizona, Republican Committee and became an elected delegate to the upcoming Arizona Republican Party presidential nominating convention.