Monday, December 17, 2012

'Establishment' Prevails Over Grass Roots In Brevard County Republican Party

Guest Article by Matthew Nye:

Local Republican Party Elections Plagued With Problems

The Brevard Republican Executive Committee (BREC), the local governing arm of the Republican Party, held it's elections last Thursday night, December 13th, and things did not go smoothly, to say the least.

The meeting was closed to only those members who submitted their precinct committeeman/woman paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections back in June. This meant there were 170 eligible voters, including the Brevard state delegation, who are all automatic members by virtue of their being state elected officials.

Before I explain what happened at the meeting, a disclaimer and a little context: I was a candidate for Chair, and was running against the incumbent Chairwoman Barbara Davis, whom I think is a wonderful lady. I have been involved with BREC since becoming politically active in 2007, and ran for Chair once previously in 2010.

The sole purpose of the meeting was to conduct Officer and District Chair elections; no other business was to be conducted. There were 127 members in attendance who were eligible to vote pursuant to the bylaws. It is important to note Chairwoman Davis canceled the standing Executive Board meeting that usually happens prior to the regular BREC meeting. One of the agenda items for that meeting was a discussion of the details of how the election would be run.

According to former Vice Chair John Weiler, the explanation given for canceling the Executive Board meeting by Chairwoman Davis was that BREC General Counsel Michael Kahn would be running the elections as in years past, and that she and State Committeewoman Carlie Rogers "have it under control".

So, let's talk about how that "control" worked out for those in attendance. The first red flag to go up was General Counsel Michael Kahn's absence. Assistant Counsel Minerva Simpson, we were told, would be running the election. More on that in a moment.

The next red flag to go up was when we were told there weren't enough ballots for the District voters. This one was a stunner, because everyone has known since the primaries exactly how many voting members there would be per district. They should have prepared 170 ballots. Remember, there were only 127 in attendance, so they had a fudge factor of 43 right out of the starting gate. How they could be short with only 127 present is incomprehensible, but we were told later it was just a math problem and that someone simply miscounted - this wasn't very reassuring to those I spoke with.

The Chairman's race was first on the list, and the rules stated each candidate nominated would have a total of ten minutes for a person to nominate them, a person to second them and to give their speech. The 10 minutes could be used in any combination, i.e. nomination with two minute speech, another person yells "second" and the candidate gives an eight minute speech, or it could be the exact reverse. Bottom line: 10 minutes total per candidate for all three parts.

In my case, my team's strategy was exactly as I just described - two minute nomination speech, a simple second, and I'm up for the remainder of the time; it all went well, until at about three minutes into my speech, Ms. Simpson walked right up the aisle directly in front of me with a letter size piece of paper with TIME written on it.

As I had been practicing and timing my speech for the last two weeks, I knew there was no way my time was up, and I said so. The Vice Chair, who was also keeping time, confirmed I had at least three minutes remaining. I kept on going and Ms. Simpson gave a frustrated "whatever" wave of her hands. I never fully recovered from the interruption, nor was I able to complete my presentation because the clock continued to run while this was being debated. To say I was disappointed after investing as much time as I did to prepare would be an understatement.

In Ms. Simpson's defense, we learned later that nobody on the board had discussed the details of how everything was supposed to work prior to the election with her. She thought the ten minutes was to encompass both candidates. Too bad that Executive Board meeting where that was all supposed to be discussed had been canceled - Ms. Simpson would have been one of those in attendance at that meeting.

Chairwoman Davis was then nominated, and both her advocates and she received their full ten minutes, with no interruptions whatsoever. As an aside, some of her proposed plans appeared to have been taken right off of the letter I mailed to voting members, but as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The body was asked to vote, the ballots were collected and the results tabulated. Final tally: Davis - 73, Nye - 56. Just one minor detail for those who can do simple math - that's 129 votes, with only 127 eligible voters in the room. When I asked the Secretary about it, she said she had no answer for the discrepancy. The consensus was it was no big deal, and we went on to the next race. I'm sorry, I thought this was the REPUBLICAN Party, where we were concerned about conducting honest and fair elections. My mistake.

All of the other Officer races were to be run in the same fashion, except the time allotted for the whole process was supposed to be five minutes instead of ten minutes. Strangely though, from that point on, every single person that took the microphone had five minutes EACH.

Here's where it gets really interesting. When the results for the second election (Vice Chair) were announced they were almost identical to those in the Chair race, except as one very astute observer noted, there didn't seem to be that many people still in the room.

When the results of the Secretary's race were announced it, the discrepancy between the ballots cast and the people in the room was even greater. The same person who made the initial observation saw members giving their ballots to friends and at least one District Chair and then leaving the meeting. There is no provision for proxy voting in the bylaws; as the saying goes, "you must be present to win".

Things came to a head when Chairwoman Davis called for people to cast their ballots in the last race for Treasurer. The member who had witnessed the advanced voting tried to ask a question and Chairwoman Davis told her she wasn't allowed to. I yelled "Point of Order" and asked if any of the District Chairs were already in possession of ballots for this race from people that were physically not present. District 4 Chair Greta McLaughlin meekly raised her hand and indicated she had a ballot given to her by Senator Thad Altman for the Treasurer's race. She was asked to dispose of it. None of the other District Chairs said they had any ballots for that race in advance, but as I said previously, we had several people report they saw people giving their ballots to friends and leaving prior to that race.

I came away from the meeting disappointed and angry, not because I lost (I knew my race was an uphill battle), but because I realized that in the last five years of fighting so hard to reform the Republican Party, we have achieved nothing. Our local leadership doesn't respect the members enough to take the time and care to run a proper election, yet with the exception of Secretary, their entire slate was voted into power. This lack of respect for the rules is the same mentality that pervades the party at the State and National level. Is it any wonder we have the RNC cheating on live television when we can't even clean up our own house here in Brevard?

I have decided that while I will remain a registered Republican, I can no longer support an Executive Committee run in this fashion. I am not alone - I have spoken with at least 30 people who won't be returning to the Executive Committee after what happened.

Effective January 10th, we will begin working to organize the Brevard Tea Party in a more structured fashion to address the concerns of Republicans in Brevard County, and give those unwanted by the local establishment an outlet to focus their considerable talents. If you are a Republican who believes your voice should count, your Party should follow the rules, and you want to see elected officials in office who will actually cut spending and taxes, I implore you to join us at our January meeting.

To give you an idea where the local party is headed look no further than the new District 5 Chair's [Dale Davis] comments on Facebook:


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