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Republicans rightfully cried foul in 2020 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unilaterally extended the deadline to receive absentee ballots rather. I guess we are no different here in Iowa; the Republican State Central Committee met last Saturday to amend the party bylaws to change the requirements for running as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. This meeting took place after the deadline for delegates running at district conventions next Saturday to declare their candidacy!

Before the amendment Article VIII §6 of the RPI bylaws read:

“Delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention who are elected at a district convention or at the State Convention must have been a delegate or alternate delegate to a county, district, or state Republican convention in Iowa during the four years prior to being a delegate or alternate delegate for a Republican National Convention.”

In 2012, Ron Paul didn’t win the caucus, but his followers managed to take control of our conventions (and the State Central Committee). They sent a delegation to the National Convention almost exclusively of Ron Paul supporters, some of whom had never been a part of the Republican party.

This provision takes some control away from the grassroots and prevents another upstart like Ron Paul from taking over. The problem is that the SCC really didn’t think this through. But there are always unintended consequences. The problem and the reason they held the last-minute meeting is that many elected officials do not participate in caucuses or conventions as delegates. There are good reasons that some elected officials do not participate; instead of attending a single caucus or convention, they may choose to attend several. It gives them a great opportunity to meet and greet multiple constituents.

The problem in this instance is that Governor Reynolds and Matt Whitaker want to be delegates, and neither one is eligible under Article VIII §6. Personally, I have no problem with either Reynolds or Whitaker being part of the Iowa delegation to the convention. Reynolds is the governor, and Whitaker served in Trump’s cabinet as acting attorney general. The problem I have is with RPI changing the rules at the last minute.

But it gets worse! The amendment proposed for last Saturday was to add “or currently serving as a Republican state or federal elected official.” This would make the governor eligible but still exclude Whitaker.

So, at the meeting, the SCC replaced the proposed amendment and added a new sentence:

“Currently hold or have previously held a position as a Republican statewide or federal elected official, or as a Republican member of the United States Cabinet serving under a Republican president.”

This both narrowed and expanded the original amendment. Narrowed because it no longer includes state legislators (unless they have attended conventions) and expanded because it now includes previous officeholders and cabinet members.

This new wording passed with a vote of 13-4. Only John Strathman (CD3), BJ Hoffman (CD2), Chelle Adkins (CD2), and Bethany Gates (CD2) voted no, and  Edward (Bernie) Hayes (CD2) was absent. Even so, there are still two problems:

The first is that the change to the amendment was improper. This is not the amendment that was sent out in the required meeting notice. A proposed bylaws amendment may be amended but only to narrow its scope. Including two categories that were not in the original amendment is a violation of Robert’s Rules (RRONR §57:10-17).

Even so, I know that RPI is not going to care that this amendment is invalid, so let’s move on to the problem that every GOP district convention will have to deal with this Saturday. I have looked at all four district convention tabloids. Based on the answers to questions in their Declaration of Candidacy forms for national delegate/alternate, every district has one or more candidates who are not qualified because they have not attended a convention until this year! The RPI bylaws were amended to control who could be delegates, yet when delegates filed declaration of candidacy forms, RPI accepted forms from people who were not qualified because they had not attended a convention in the four years prior. These forms should have been rejected.

This year, the Trump campaign has created slates of SCC and National Convention delegate/alternate candidates for all four districts. I am not a big fan of slates, and I wish they would stay out of our SCC elections, but I get that they want to reward their people with convention seats. The problem is that in three of the four districts, there are candidates on their slate who apparently are new to the process, have not attended conventions before, and are not qualified under Article VIII §6 of the RPI bylaws!

Every district has one or more candidates for national delegate or alternate that is not qualified. One district only has two candidates for alternate delegate (both qualified), and another district has only three, but only two are qualified.

Some will argue that since most of these candidates are delegates this year, they meet the requirement of attending a convention during the four years prior. This is not consistent with the plain language or the original intent of this provision. This restriction was added to the bylaws to prevent another campaign from doing what the Ron Paul campaign did in 2012 and sending outsiders or newcomers to the National Convention with no history of involvement in Iowa Republican politics.

I have chaired the last three district conventions but chose not to volunteer this year so someone else would have a chance. I am glad I am not the one who will have to deal with this on Saturday!

Author: David Chung

David Chung is a longtime former RPI State Central Committee member and chairman of multiple county, district and state convention Rules Committees


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