The District, Part II: Not My Job, Man

At last month’s 4th Congressional District GOP convention, John Kysylyczyn was elected Fourth CD chairman after a short, acrimonious campaign.  He unseated Jim Carson, the architect of Senator Roger Chamberlain’s successful Senate race in 2010 – which was, before redistricting, one of the Fourth CD’s very, very few successful elections.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was the Secretary for CD4.  I was “the establishment” – for exactly a year.  And I did purely because someone challenged me, once upon a time, to put up or shut up; as a pundit, I freely criticized party officials who I felt were falling down on the job; they asked me if I thought I could do it myself.  They had a point.

And so I got involved,  And I found that some of it, I actually can do!  Anyway – I have no ambition within the party except to help good (i.e., conservative) people get elected.  Which its he same ambition I have outside the party – on this blog, and on my show.

Long explanation short;  No sour grapes.  To blame this article series of articles on “sour grapes” is to dodge the point.

Which is why I’m elaborating on the point so careully.

———-

Beyond that? I’m not one of the “establishment” Republicans who are especially upset that the Ron Paul crowd took over.  Especially in the Fourth CD, the influx of passionate newbies is more than welcome.  I’m a former big-L Libertarian; I disagree with Ron Paul, but I agree with 80% of what his supporters believe.  Oh, I believe the baby got thrown out with the bathwater – the 4th was making some headway – but as a general thing, I think some good people got elected to BPOU and Executive Committee offices.

Now, Twin Cities Republican activist, attorney and blogger John Gilmore is upset.  John – a Saint Paul GOP activist and one of the bloggers at Minnesota Conservatives, has railed against Ron Paul and his movement since the very beginning.

And some of his railing is pretty acerbic…:

The hideous Ron Paul invasion of the Minnesota Republican Party is not quite over–the denouement known as its state convention in St. Cloud this weekend awaits–but enough evidence is in hand to draw some grim conclusions for those who are not enamored of a Jew hating fringe cult political figure who speaks to alienated, fairly ignorant and frequently unwashed lost souls. There are just enough exceptions to this characterization on an individual basis to prove its general truth.

The Paul zombies™ tried their best last cycle and were rebuffed by the party establishment. To these strange persons this was akin to living in North Korea. Their bleating about tyranny is perhaps the easiest example by which to show how they are simply not serious people in a political sense. They have no idea what tyranny is except the infantilized one fed them by friend of David Duke Ron Paul.

…and some of it was counterproductive, in my humble and inbidden opinion; John’s a friend, but let’s be honest; he’s about as subtle as Jesse Ventura on a coke binge; if you know John, you know I’m right.  Right?

Notwithstanding that, I generally support John, because he’s generally right, or at least right enough.

At any rate, at the last convention, CD4 got a new chair – former Roseville Mayor Kysylyczyn (who, combined with deputy and incumbent vice-chair Mike Boguszewski, gives CD4 the least-spellable executive 1-2 team in Minnesota politics).

And while the leadership at different Congressional Districts has many ideas about what the CD committee should do when it comes to helping races for the Legislature and the district’s affiliated US House seat (as we discussed this morning), Kysylyczyn seems to have a different one altogether, if one is to believe an email he apparently sent to CD4 activists. (Gilmore carries the letter in its entirety; I have a copy of the whole message):

…CD’s have nothing to do with legislative races.  It is clearly stated in the constitution.  We also have little to do with the congressional district race.  We are not the candidate’s committee.  In fact, we are not the committee of any candidate running for office this fall.

The email was apparently in response to concerns that, in the month-and-change since the CD4 convention, the 4th CD has not held a committee meeting.

Kysylyczyn (with emphasis added by me):

To be frank, it does not matter if we are up to any particular speed for this fall’s elections.

If you are a Republican in the Fourth CD, you may be wondering if you read that right.  Did the Chair of the 4th CD GOP, in the middle of a hotly-contested election season, coming off a redistricting that gives CD4 Republicans a welcome boost in numbers, really just say the district doesn’t really need to be “up to any particular speed” come election-time?

We’ll come back to that.

I understand that many may not agree with this or maybe things have been done differently in the past.  As someone new to the position, I sat down the first week on the job and read the state and CD constitutions and the bylaws.  My analysis is strictly based off of those documents.

Now, I can’t speak for Kysylyczyn (and as we’ll discuss in tomorrow’s installment, either will Kysylyczyn). but I’ll try to summarize what the thinking appears to be, here:  the constitution doesn’t say we have to do anything, so we won’t.

Read the Minnesota and CD4 GOP Constitutions - I did. The Consitutions spell out relatively few actual duties; elect officers, hold endorsing conventions where delegates elected by BPOUs endorse candidates for Congress, elect State Central Committee members and State and National convention delegates when needed, and a bunch of other little bits of electoral administrivia.

But the two Constitutions are pretty silent on lots of things that Congressional Districts do as a matter of course; fundraising, Voter ID and database maintenance, organizing volunteers, working with candidates, or allowing committee members to go to the bathroom during meetings, for that matter.

And yet Congressional Districts do – and in the 4th CD, did - all those things.  The 4th CD has a few thousand dollars in the bank.  What does the Constitution say to do with it?

Kysylyczyn:

There seems to be this mistaken belief that the CD is some sort of super campaign committee.  It is not.  There also seems to be this mistaken belief that CD’s win elections.  This is not true.

While it’s entirely possible that there are people who believe those things, it’s not nearly as important as the question “then what is a Congressional District Committee there for?”

Marshaling volunteers?

Helping with fundraising?

Transferring expertise?

Collecting and helping to maintain voter lists?

Candidate committees win elections.  There also seems to be a mistaken belief that CD’s sort of bind together BPOU’s that choose to operate as house districts.  This is not true.

So what is true?

If the 4th CD isn’t there to help provide expertise and data and boots on the ground to the BPOUs, and to help drum up help and fundraising and volunteers for the Congressional candidate…

…then what is it there for?  Why does it exist?  To hold conventions, to elect officers, and to kill time until the next election cycle?

Remember – campaigns come and go with electoral seasons. The party?  It’s the part that’s there between the elections.

We’ll come back to the actual “role during campaigns” bit.  Kysylyczyn responds to questions about the dearth of meetings since the CD4 convention (emphasis added):

We are required to hold four full committee meetings per year.  It is my intention to have 4 full committee meetings a year.  It is my intention to have actual agendas for meetings and a real purpose for having a meeting.  Every time we have one of these meetings, there is potentially 100 of our best volunteers who are not spending an evening on the campaign trail.

The emphasized bit is a red herring.

While the 4th CD held monthly meetings over the past year, those were suspended during the thick of campaign season; Carson made it clear that campaigning came first, and excused committee members readily and without question for campaign activities.

Sum total of volunteers taken off the street during committee meetings in 2011:  0.

In the past, there appears to have been a cattle call mentality concerning the calling of meetings.  Just have one every month.

I’m not aware that John Kysylyczyn attended a meeting at CD4 over the past year.  I certainly did – I was the secretary, and except for three meetings where family health issues intervened, I was there for every one.  None of them were held for “the sake of holding meetings”.

It doesn’t matter if we have any agenda.  Don’t bother sending out agendas.  Whoever shows up does.  Fill the time allotted.  To be clear, I do not operate in this fashion.

To be clear and honest, either did Jim Carson.

But all that is administrivia behind the real question:  if the CD4 leadership doesn’t plan on doing something to help candidates – even something as simple as being a clearinghouse for volunteers, training, and the social engagement that helps bring a district together in pursuit of a common electoral cause – then what is it there for?

A launching pad for delegates to Tampa, with quarterly meetings to look at the slide shows?

The big question is this: If you’re a Republican in the 4th CD, do you think your CD should be sitting on the sidelines during the campaign, as the email seems to indicate Chairman Kysylyczyn says it should?

———-

In the interest of fairness, one might ask “is that really what Kysylyczyn meant to say?”

It’s a good question.  More on this tomorrow morning.

8 thoughts on “The District, Part II: Not My Job, Man

  1. Many are going to have a problem with John K’s “by the book” leadership style…
    Ill withhold further comment for now..
    In the past the CD-4 leadership has had to act in a vacuum of dysfunctional BPOU’s.. Perhaps this is a move to take the training wheels off and see if the BPOU leaders can guide the bike themselves? Lets have some band-aids ready for scraped knees…

  2. I see a great opportunity here for Kurt Bills. Call a lunch with Tony Hernandez and John Kysylyczyn and remind everyone of their shared goals – that help for Tony is help for Kurt, and help for Kurt is help for Tony – and that both men will need a lot of help to win their races… and that help for people in Tampa doesn’t really help anyone.

    (This is not a knock of the National delegates. I am awed and impressed, but not shocked, at the RP campaign’s ability to get their delegates elected. Those folks should be proud of their efforts and enjoy every minute of the convention experience. It’s just poor form to use party coffers to pay for the experience.)

  3. Gill,

    To be clear – the rumor that the CD was going to short Hernandez to subdidize delegate trips to Tampa turned out not to be true.

    Just so we’re clear on that.

  4. Frankly, I am shocked and dismayed by Kysylyczyn’s attitude. The CD4-RPM committee has struggled for many years to be relevant to electoral politics in Minnesota. It had been my principal intention as Chair to bring a useful purpose to this ‘goat rodeo’.

    Towards that end, I had started doing basic campaign training. We did 6-7 45-minute sessions before the Full Committee meetings. Topics included calendars/planning, campaign budgeting, signs, fund raising, new Americans and so on. I think many found them useful.

    The 2010 Congressional campaign had brought an unprecedented level of coordination and cooperation across the Congressional District. Frankly, the assistance we received in the Chamberlain race wrt lit dropping significantly reduced our costs and materially benefited us. That assistance came from across the entire Congressional District and I am grateful for that. I hope that those who pitched in feel a sense of ownership and pride in what they accomplished.

    In a review process started by my predecessor, I learned that other legislative campaigns floundered for months before getting their footing. That crystalized for me what useful role that CD4 could play in electoral politics. Assist campaigns through training and marshaling resources. For 2012, I had hoped to leverage cooperation between the three levels of our efforts: Congressional, legislative and Ramsey County Board. Every candidate who could win, would win.

    During the 2011 off-year, the CD brought considerable resources into the SD66 Special Election and the 2011 School Board races. While the outcomes were unfortunate, we made a good faith effort and learned something about politics.

    I take exception to Kys’s jabs about my leadership practices. You are correct, Mitch, I always had a meaningful agenda. While I typically did not distribute it ahead of time, I usually let people know in the reminder notice what business we would be doing. I also made a practice of telling candidates that they did not belong in meetings unless they had a purpose specific to their campaigns. I even canceled the August meeting to free up everyone to attend National Night Out. Kys* would not know this because I don’t recall him ever attending a CD4 meeting while I was Chair. Finally, I always worked hard to keep us on task and wasted very little time.

    Frankly, I don’t mind losing. That might be hard to believe or understand, but I now have more time to dedicate to the races that matter to me in 2012. We have enough residual connections throughout the district that the elimination of the CD4 structure won’t matter very much. A week after my defeat, JillV called me asking where she could find a list of BPOU Chairs. I recited every one of them from memory except for SD41 and SD54.

    Nevertheless, I would have preferred a robust debate over a month or two about the proper role of the CD4 organization in our political activism rather than a last minute ambush. I suspect that I would have won that debate. As I have heard too many times from those friends who lost heartbreakers, “it is what it is”.

    What about 2012? I can’t wait for Election Night! 2010 was magic. I am still flying from that race! To be honest, Chamberlain would have won anyway, I believe. He is a “natural”. But, I get some credit. I am already working hard to make sure that races in my stomping ground get properly launched. Chair or not, I intend to work with them throughout the next six months and put some wins on the board in CD4. I want my friends to experience that magic, too.

  5. Can that be the same John Gilmore who was President of the Forum? Wow, the years have changed him. Used to be, he was the sensible liberal and I was the conservative kook (I owned the only Reagan bumper sticker on campus in 1980).

    Still quite confident in his opinions, though. Some things never change.

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