Switching Things Up

Nobody can deny that the recent run-up to the Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention has been chaotic and combative.

On Saturday, incumbent National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose was (unfortunately) elected to a third-term over former Maryland Republican Party Chairman Diana Waterman. As you recall, Ambrose was endorsed by President Donald Trump for re-election despite her actions as at the 2016  Republican Convention.

If you’ve been following along on social media, you’ve realized that the entire race was barely about either Ambrose or Waterman. The race wasn’t about them, their experience, or what they would do as National Committeewoman. The race was merely an avatar for other internal issues and fissures within the Maryland Republican Party. Combine that with an unprecedented and unnecessary amount of meddling from D.C. Republicans created a ridiculous race that was barely about the candidates. Both Ambrose and Waterman deserved a better race than the one they were subjected to.

This kind of race did nothing to figure out who could best represent Maryland Republicans on how to best serve their interests on the Republican National Committee. Is there a way that we can, in the future, make these races more representative of Maryland Republicans and less representative of internal squabbling within the GOP? I can think of two ways.

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Option 1: Elect the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman during the Republican Presidential Primary

Every four years, Maryland Republican voters have the opportunity to determine who will represent them at the Republican National Convention. Often those races themselves are merely reflective of who is a pledged to delegate to which candidate and less about who the Delegate is. Not that Convention Delegate is a particularly demanding or influential position.

So why not have actual Republican voters elect the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman? Instead of electing a slate of Delegates who are fighting for the right to pay a large sum of money to go one large convention, what’s the harm in electing two people who are looking for the right to pay large sums of money to go to multiple meetings a year for four years?

There are some potential downsides to this plan. First and foremost is the fact that such a change would likely require a change in state law to allow the positions to appear on the ballot. Second, having a statewide race to all Republican voters may make price out those who wish to serve on the Republican National Committee but don’t have the resources to run a statewide campaign. Regardless, this kind of election will allow the maximum number of people to decide who can best represent them.

Option 2: A Party Run Election

At the Convention the Maryland Republican Party, the party used Simply Voting to conduct its elections. That solution can be scaled up and used to implement a system where the party directly administers the election and allows party members to vote remotely.

This system is actually similar to how the Conservative Party of the UK conducts their leadership elections, with members of the Party getting to vote directly on who represents them. In this proposal, it would serve as a middle ground between the insular decision reached by the Central Committee and a broad-based net using a Presidential Primary.

Here’s my proposal:

  1. Potential candidates for National Committeeman and Committeewoman declare their candidacy to the state party.
  2. The MDGOP would notify all Republican voters in Maryland of the upcoming election and how to participate.
  3. Interested Republicans would register with the state party and pay a nominal fee to become a registered member of the party. Only registered members of the party will have the opportunity to cast a vote.
  4. The filing period to run and the member registration period will close two weeks before the vote opens.
  5. All candidates will be provided with the contact information of all active and registered party members for the purpose of campaigning.
  6. The online voting system will be open for 24-hours. The MDGOP will notify registered members on multiple occasions of the opening of the vote, including the day before, and multiple times the day of.
  7. The MDGOP will post the results of the election on the MDGOP website immediately after the close of the vote.

This system has the benefit of serving as a small-dollar fundraiser, updating the party’s contact information on Republican voters, and getting additional buy-in from registered Republicans about party activities and candidates.

I have no expectation that any of this will come to fruition. There is little incentive for change within the Central Committee, and too many people have an incentive to keep the current system in place because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But there’s got to be a better way to do this than the manner in which the Ambrose v. Waterman race took shape over the last month. The Maryland GOP is worse off it.

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