This weekend I had the chance to interview one of the candidates for Oklahoma State GOP Vice-chair, Richard Engle. You may remember his run last year for National Committeeman, which he narrowly lost to Steve Fair at the State Convention.
Working with Oklahoma’s GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell, last year Engle helped to form a county election committee which was successful in defeating 60% of incumbent Democrat candidates at the county level. Engle also says there is a good opportunity to grow the Republican party at the county level throughout the state, particularly candidates who strongly support the Republican platform.
Having run for office, and winning both election and reelection, Engle knows what candidates go through while campaigning, often door-to-door and receiving a lot of rejection. He cites this as an asset in his run for vice-chair, as he can help future candidates from his firsthand experience.
Often times in other states, party officials tell candidates to tone down their message and back off from a conservative platform. Engle believes it works the other way around, citing Reagan as a prime example. He was pro-life when most people were pro abortion. Most liked government programs when he wanted less. While many Americans were afraid of the USS, he wanted to end Soviet communism. Reagan stood up for what he believed in, and that worked with the people. I, too, believe that conviction and ideals work. Moderate Republicans have had a very hard time winning or keeping office, whether their opponents have been Democrats, or even more conservative Republicans in the primaries.
One of the biggest challenges I see for Oklahoma’s Republican Party is the various groups or factions of the party learning to work together to move forward as one united group. There is a desire to unify, but we still have ideological and other disagreements that are holding us back. Engle asserts the influx of TEA party and Ron Paul supporters from the last few years is nothing new, that in fact historically people become involved in parties in sweeps.
Many Republicans have become activists over single issues, joining the party in waves. In regards to working with the recent surge, Engle says it is important to not degrade or belittle new activists whose priorities on the party platform may be different from those who came in past influxes.
Last year, Engle and others more in line with the Ron Paul, TEA Party, or grassroots activists came very close to winning a lot of party positions (Engle lost to Fair by only 18 votes out of a couple thousand), and some won. This year, I have noticed the balances are about the same, though fewer people are involved in this non-election year.
The 2013 Oklahoma State Republican Convention will be this Saturday, at the Magnuson Hotel in Oklahoma City. Delegates will be electing a new party chair and vice-chair, as both Matt Pinnell (the current chair) and Pam Pollard (vice-chair) are not seeking re-election.
Richard Engle has the support of such names as John Doak, Mark Costello, Charles Key, Randy Brogdon, Dana Murphy, Lance Cargill, and more. I met him a year ago and have come to appreciate his drive, organization, and ideology. His priority of empowering the conservative grassroots has not changed, and I believe he is the kind of person we need at the helm of our state party to bring us together. We need to move forward so we can accomplish new victories, building on the success of the last several years.
Note: I also spoke with Dave Weston this week, who is running for the vice-chair position as well. If time permits, we will do an interview by e-mail. Be sure to check back on Standard Excellence for any additional interviews and lots of pictures, video, and stories from the State Convention!SHARE