The Justin Ready Interview

I had the opportunity to interview via email our new State GOP Executive Director Justin Ready. Below the fold is the full Q&A, and it provides a lot of insight into Justin’s view on our current situation here in Maryland, where we go for the rest of 2008, and how our party is preparing for 2010 and beyond.

I greatly thank Justin for taking the time to do this!

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Brian Griffiths: You’ve been on the job for a couple of weeks now, how are you adjusting to the new position.
Justin Ready: I am adjusting pretty well, I think. Its still a process of learning more about day to day responsibilities and technical “stuff” while also looking to move the Party forward and take the next, crucial steps in fundraising and grassroots development. No matter how busy things get, it is an absolute privilege to wake up every morning and be able to work to advance the Maryland Republican Party.

BG: How different is your role as Executive Director from your previous roles on campaigns or in the General Assembly?
JR: In the General Assembly, policy and legislation are the primary concern. In my position with both Senator Greenip and Delegate Jennings, I spent the lions share of my time on researching and in some cases developing legislation, communicating with constituents, and working on problems that individual constituents brought to the Senator or Delegate’s attention. At the State Party, it’s a little different in the sense that my job is not to make policy but to work very hard to build a strong political infrastructure and organization to elect Republicans and grow our party.

There are a lot of similarities to running a campaign except your pushing all of your candidates while working to stockpile resources for the future.

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BG: What are your goals for the rest of 2008?
JR: Building a stronger grassroots infrastructure, increasing the coordination between elected officials and the MDGOP, increasing our file of reliable donors both small and large, working to be sure we hold onto Congressional Districts 1 and 6 while working with our challengers in the other six districts, and beginning the process of recruiting and training great candidates for our races in 2010. How’s that for a short list lol? Putting the party in position to elect more Republicans is what I see as my primary objective.

BG: In the past, the state party apparatus has been accused of meddling too much into the affairs of local central committees. What do you think the relationship should be between the state and local parties?
JR: The state party is empowered by the local parties, and not the other way around. I’m not sure about past situations, but my job is to work with our local chairs and central committee members on advancing broad goals not micromanage their processes. The only exception I would make is if there is some extreme case of fiscal mismanagement, corruption, or criminal activity. Even then, it’s best handled locally.

BG: One of the concerns that many Republicans have deals with fundraising. How do you plan on ensuring that the party coffers get into and stays in the black?
JR: Our fundraising has been strong this year but we must use this election year interest to expand our donor base. It is so important to bring more and more small and large donors into the party. Part of the challenge is developing good relationships with people around the state who are able to invest a substantial amount, while also letting the small and medium level donors know just how important their donations are. You’ll get tired of hearing me say this, but it just takes working very hard and also reaching out beyond our normal boundaries to find new donors.

BG:. There have been several proposals in recent years to allow the state and local parties to endorse in competitive primary elections, something that has proven rather controversial with Central Committee members and activists alike. What are you thoughts on these proposals?
JR: The position of the state party is to stay out of primaries and I think it is the right position. The Republican primary voters in each district should decide and then we should all come together behind the winner of the GOP primary. There are not enough of us to fight amongst ourselves during the General Election. That does not do anything to advance our cause or beat Democrats.

BG: The 1st Congressional District race was particularly ugly and caustic. What do you see as your role in bringing the party back together?
JR: Well, I think the party in many ways is back together. Senator Harris has reached out to supporters of his primary opponents and nearly everyone has gotten completely behind his candidacy, because the major debate in the primary was over policy issues. He has the support of every Eastern Shore GOP Central Committee and the elected officials on the Shore. My job as ED is to point out that the election in CD1 is between a liberal Democrat who wants higher taxes and more government spending and who wants to be an “ally of Governor O’Malley’s in Washington,” and a common sense conservative who wants lower taxes and less wasteful government spending. When Republicans, Independents, and moderate Democrats see the difference between Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil, I am confident Andy will be our next congressman. My role is to work with the local parties and activists to ensure that our entire Republican infrastructure is doing all they can to bring about victory. It hasn’t been a hard sell. Andy Harris has really energized the Republicans across the board as well as many independents and Democrats.

BG:. Despite the party registration numbers, Maryland has a very vibrant conservative blogosphere. How do you think that bloggers can help the party, and how will you try to engage them?
JR: The conservative blogosphere in Maryland is doing a wonderful job of getting information out to activists all over Maryland. The commentary and issue spotlighting that happens on the blogs really encourages our elected officials and lets them know that they are not alone in the fight. With the dominant print media in this state being so left of center, it is vital that we have alternative outlets.

My plan is to be sure we are keeping bloggers in the loop with what we want to do message wise, while respecting their autonomy. It means treating bloggers as allies but not expecting them to be lockstep with us all the time. In addition, I would like to see the conservative blogosphere call attention to our candidates for office and work to drive volunteers and donations toward GOP candidates that are putting their name on the line to help build our party.

BG. One concern that I have had and have argued for is that the 2010 elections are much more important than the 2008 elections due to the composition of the General Assembly, the governorship, and the impending redistricting after the 2010 census. How important is 2010 in your eyes, and what preparations are you taking now for that election?

JR: It is vital for our party to come out of 2010 with positive progress. Even if we do not win the governorship back or a U.S. Senate seat (although those are certainly major goals), we must pick up seats in the General Assembly. If so called “moderate” Democrats are able to come to Annapolis, vote for higher taxes or ridiculous government programs and then get re-elected, then there will be no stopping the left-wing from completely dominating all aspects of our state.

As far as preparations go, my passion is finding hungry, committed candidates for State Senate, House of Delegates, and our county offices throughout Maryland. They must be willing to work hard, raise money, and take an active role in getting themselves out in the community. Our party must stockpile financial resources so that we can have the ability to go after vulnerable delegates and senators BUT we must use our limited resources intelligently. Through identifying winning messages and pairing those messages with grassroots effort from solid candidates, we can make solid gains in 2010. We have to be smart about it as a party though. We need Republicans in every district to get behind their candidates and also their GOP incumbents to ensure that we hold our seats and make gains.

BG: One recent criticism of the state party apparatus has been candidate recruitment, two particularly egregious examples being the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts this year. Have you started candidate recruitment for 2010, and do you think that the party will be able to field stronger candidates for Congress in the future?
JR: We are in the beginning stages of candidate recruitment. My goal is to have quality candidates for every state legislative district and congressional district in Maryland. There are many districts where, with hard-working and enthusiastic candidates, we can pick up seats in the General Assembly. In off year elections, we also have a much better chance in the six Democratically held congressional seats because Democratic turnout is much lower. One of the lessons that I learned running races in 2006 was that in districts with a strong senate candidate and strong delegate candidates, you had a much better chance of picking up House or Senate seats than if you just had one strong State Senate candidate or 2-3 strong House of Delegates candidates. It’s important that we have qualified people up and down the ballot. We’re working on identifying what ought to be our top targeted districts statewide and want to get our candidates trained and setting the table in their districts very early on.

BG:. Voter registration numbers in recent years have indicated that the younger demographic is registering as independents more than in previous years? How do you think we can reach these voters?
JR: I think we have to have a strong message and show them that they can trust us when we are in power. Also, Maryland Republicans have to break through the stereotypes created on the national level about Republicans. We are the party in Maryland that fights for working families, small business entrepreneurs and employees of businesses small and large. We want to cut taxes, stop wasteful spending and provide free market solutions in health care and energy.

The Democratic Party in Maryland (and nationally) believes that government knows best how to run your life. They want to control how your kids are raised, what car you drive, and whenever they spend too much money, they want to make you pay for their largesse by increasing your taxes. Why do they always blame us for the problem and not their over-spending? Because they think that we taxpayers are greedy, that’s why! They think we are desperate for more and more government intervention in our lives and without big government there, we wouldn’t have a hope of making it on our own. So they tell us they are hiking up taxes “for our own good”. If we can succinctly express this to independent voters, I am confident that we can win a large percentage of them over.

BG: Any other thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
JR: Be a rebel…fight the establishment… support Maryland Republicans.


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