Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm running for office

I'm sure all of you have wondered what I've been doing. My last posting was the beginning of June concerning the special election in San Diego. Well, I've been recruited to run for Republican Precinct Committeeman for Shawnee (ward 2, precinct 4) in the August primary election. My state representative, Mary Pilcher Cook, persuaded me to run for the position, which is so small that few people know what it is (even back in 2004, I didn't know what the office was or the names on the ballot, so I just picked the name that sounded best). As small as they are, precinct committee members are vital to the local county and state party apparatus and can affect the direction of the party for years to come. A precinct is the smallest political unit, and basically consists of a few hundred voters in a cluster of neighborhoods (state legislative districts typically have 10-15 precincts, U.S. Congressional districts typically have 500-800 precincts).

Each precinct elects one committeeman and woman from each party to serve a two-year term. Duties include:

1. Writing and voting on the county party platform and bylaws (in this case, the Johnson County
Republican Party (deciding whether the local party will be pro-life, against gun control, etc.)
2. Electing the executive board (president, VP, treasurer) of the county party. This is
important because the executive board decides which candidates to fund for public office, all
the way up to U.S. congress.
3. Appoint delegates to go to the state convention and help write the state party's platform
(hopefully, I'll get chosen to do this--it would be awesome to help write the Kansas GOP
4. Appoint replacements for state legislators and local elected officials who leave office abruptly
due to death or retirement.

The reason this is going to be such a big deal in Kansas is due to the Attorney General's race. Johnson County DA Paul Morrison is running against incumbent Phil Kline in the general election. If Morrison wins, the GOP precinct committee member in JoCo will have to appoint a replacement to the DA's office (because Morrison was elected as a Republican, he just now switched to the Dem. party). It could mean the difference between having someone like Kris Kobach or Phil Kline as DA or another closet Democrat.

Precinct Committee positions are seen as a stepping stone to higher office. Former Kansas GOP director Mark Parkinson got his start in politics by winning election as precinct committeeman at 19 years old. Current state legislator Rep. Judy Morrison (R-Shawnee), was a precinct committeewoman when a vacancy arose in her legislative district. Her fellow precinct committeemembers elected her to fill the remainder of the incumbent's term in Topeka and she has now successfully ran and won re-election twice having only held office as a precinct committeewoman before.

In 1996, it was one precinct committeewoman's vote that kept a clause supporting the right to life in the Kansas GOP platform.

So as you can see, the positions are vital, and with 6,000 precinct committeepositions across the state, they're also numerous. I encourage all of you to get involved in your local party, whether Democrat or Republican--Oh, did I forget to mention that precinct committee members are frequently chosen to represent the state party at events such as national party conventions in presidential election years?

Anyway, I will update this site when I have time. I'm running against entrenched incumbents, so I have an uphill battle, but I am knocking on every door and handing out a push card introducing myself to voters. Election day is just 20 days away.