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SPIKER SPEAKS: Criticized Chair Has Something to Say

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If you read the first line of Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker’s email to supporters, you might think those who have called for him to resign will finally get their way. Spiker’s email Friday morning began with this:

“It has been an honor for me to serve as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.”

Reads a bit like something someone who is about to quit would say, huh? In this case, it isn’t. Spiker had been a prominent backer of Libertarian/Republican Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. The “establishment” wing of the Republican Party didn’t quite trust Paul and now doesn’t trust Spiker either. Paul wanted to essentially end U.S. involvement overseas in terms of military and money, talked of legalizing drugs and pushed, at least early in his second presidential campaign, for enormous cuts in federal spending that critics say would have plummeted the country into fiscal chaos. Of course, Paul’s supporters believe the country is screwed up and those big changes are necessary to fix things.

For the record, Spiker hasn’t used his position as chair to push for those things. But critics from his own party fear he and other Paul supporters who worked to get elected to key positions on the state central committee are merely laying the groundwork for Paul’s son, Rand, to run for president in 2016. Rand has already come to Iowa, as has Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Spiker hasn’t ruled out a run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. senate for the seat Democratic Senator Tom Harkin will vacate when he retires following the 2014 election. Neither has his number two in the party, Co-Chair David Fischer (who will be my guest on “The Insiders” this Sunday morning). The fact that neither will rule out a senate bid also has Republican critics thinking something sinister is in play.

Spiker tried to move his party’s state convention to July, instead of the traditional June date. Spiker said it’s just in case no senate candidate in the June primary gets the necessary 35% support to get the nomination. Delaying it, he claimed, gives the proper amount of time for the election to get certified.

But critics think it is just a way for Paul supporters to mobilize their efforts from the June primary until the July convention to unite behind one pro-Paul senate candidate (like Spiker, Fischer or even the party’s finance director, Drew Ivers).

An uprising ensued. The Republican senate candidates (those who have already declared their campaigns), Governor Branstad and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley all publicly opposed Spiker’s efforts to delay the state convention. That stings. Activists rose up. Spiker had to back down. The convention is now back in June. Spiker’s “power” as chair could be seriously put into jeopardy.

Appanoose County and Polk County Republicans both passed resolutions for Spiker to resign. That stings. Dave Kochel, Romney’s top Iowa adviser, called for Spiker to leave. So did state central committee members Jamie Johnson and David Chung. Again, that stings.

Spiker isn’t giving in. His email to supporters Friday morning began with words that may have made people think he was about to announce his departure. But if you read on, you see that Spiker has no intentions of leaving his position. The message ends with another push to buy tickets to go see Ted Cruz at the Reagan Dinner. Apparently, tickets remain.

None of this necessarily means Spiker is finished. But needless to say, he will need something big to find a way to unite his party around him if he intends to remain as state party chair.

Here’s the rest of the Spiker email:

I’d like to thank you in advance for taking a moment to read this letter as I discuss some recent issues that have arisen within the Republican Party of Iowa. As Chairman there are some major responsibilities I believe I have such as; working to craft a strong and effective party, working to elect Republicans statewide, working to listen to our grassroots activists and working to promote the values in our platform. I understand that in politics there can sometimes be instances of misinformation that swirl about and that today there are a few county leaders who have expressed concern with some of the things taking place within the State Party. I am happy to address them as we move forward to elect Republicans and promote our Republican principles & policies.

First, with approximately $400,000 in the bank, the Republican Party of Iowa is doing great financially. The State party has zero debt and owns its headquarters in Des Moines outright. We all know that the liberal media doesn’t like this and rarely reports it. In fact I still chuckle to myself when I read old stories from the liberal media spreading rumors that our building was up for sale, or being mortgaged or we couldn’t pay the electric bill. All silly rumors of course, but ones that are still a headache to spend time dealing with.

But unfortunately for them, they can’t argue with math. And as we raise money and reduce costs, I’ve been proud to work with staff and members of our State Central Committee to craft a strong and efficient state party. In fact for all of 2013 the Iowa GOP has been in the top 10 of Republican state parties throughout the country when it comes to financial standing. Even today, there will undoubtedly be liberal journalists and even the occasional politico or blogger trying to make a name for themselves by trying to spread discord. But I’ve always believed that as Republicans we need to stand above this, and always take the high road.

Just as our financial statements are public record, our State Central Committee receives a full report during each meeting. Anytime some asks you for the “real story” on the Republican Party of Iowa’s finances, you’ll be able to give them the honest truth; that the Party is in good financial shape and is working hard to further our mission. I’m excited to work with a party that is raising money and providing a great product to the many, many Republicans throughout the state who are sick and tired of the same “tax and spend policies” they hear being proposed by the other side of the aisle.

Second, I understand there has been some concern regarding the dates of the caucus and the state convention. Above all, I truly do want to thank those of you who took the time to call, email or meet with me. It really does mean a lot when people handle things so professionally and work to hear the full details. By the same token, I believe it is my professional responsibility to listen to you, the grassroots activists and leaders when you have a concern. I had an initial concern that after the June primary there would not be enough time to certify the results. This could create a great deal of hassle for both the state party as well as county parties.

If no Republican candidate for United States Senate receives 35% in the primary, it raised the possibility of having a nominating convention take place before the primary results were canvassed or having two state conventions. Seeing what happened with the Iowa caucuses in January of 2012, I believed unequivocally that I needed to do everything within my power to ensure these next caucuses and conventions went smoothly. I also wanted to avoid a two convention scenario where turnout could be down for one or both conventions impacting items including our nominee for Lt. Governor and Senate. I believe our “First in the Nation” status is something all Republican leaders in the state should work hard to defend, and I wanted to make sure beyond a doubt that nothing would cause other states to push to repeal this.

Our 2014 State Convention had originally been set for June 14.  As our party’s field of candidates for U.S. Senate grew there was some question whether anyone would clear the 35% threshold at the primary to win our party’s nomination. My reading of the Iowa Code suggested that we could not fill a ballot vacancy until the 27-day canvass period following the primary was complete as the state party only has the power to fill a vacancy. It is my desire to have someone win the June primary outright so we have a nominee as soon as possible. While it has always been my preference to hold the state convention in June, I suggested to our board that the state convention be moved to July 12 in case nobody clears the 35% threshold. This would allow for the canvass period to avoid a two convention scenario and the board voted unanimously to do this.

Listening to some concerns from our grassroots that this date would hurt our eventual nominee by shortening the amount of time to campaign for the general election, I consulted with the Secretary of State’s office. I was told by their staff that this was a gray area, so I consulted with our party’s legal counsel, who felt it was clear that we couldn’t fill a vacancy until a vacancy existed which is after the 27-day canvass period was complete. I therefore decided I would not ask our board to take up the matter again and left the convention date as July 12. This caused more concern among some of our republicans and Iowa’s Secretary of State then issued a written statement that he would certify our party’s convention nominee prior to the certification of primary election results. With this written commitment, our legal counsel issued a revised opinion on the matter and I called a meeting of our board with the goal of moving the date back to June 14 and the committee voted unanimously to do that.

The committee also voted to move the precinct caucuses to the evening of Tuesday, January 21. Our party had initially scheduled the caucuses for a Saturday, consistent with the previous non-presidential caucuses in 2010. After setting our date, the democrats chose to set their caucuses for January 21. Our committee decided to change our caucuses to the same date in the interest of working together to protect Iowa’s first in the nation caucus status.

Pertinent dates are therefore:

• Precinct Caucuses: January 21
• County Conventions: March 8
• District Conventions: April 26
• State Convention: June 14

Click here for the Iowa GOP Legal Opinions Regarding a convention scenario and the commitment issued by the Secretary of State.

Third, I understand there are some Republicans in leadership positions that may not like the stances I’ve taken when it comes to planks within our party platform. I believe a true grassroots party allows its county leadership to run the affairs within that county and I’ve never wanted to interfere with the way a county’s GOP leadership runs its central committee. I also understand there may be some county parties and their chairs that don’t like the positions I’ve taken on issues and don’t want me to speak publicly about policy.

While I understand the concerns, I admittedly reject the notion that the Republican Party shouldn’t stand for and defend the principles of its platform. As Republicans, we believe that our party provides the best answers to the role of government. As Chairman of the party I realize that one of my major goals is growing the party, helping our candidates and working to elect more Republicans. While different party members have different philosophies, I’ve always been committed to working with our State Central Committee to elect Republicans. In addition I believe I have a responsibility, both personally and professionally, to advance the values of our party. In fact, our Iowa GOP Constitution charges our party with promoting Republican principles and policies.

I realize that some Republicans have charged that I shouldn’t take a stance at all on issues. While I believe in electing members of our party and have worked hard to do so, I also believe that the values of our party are important, and should be promoted and defended. Some Republicans have criticized me for taking a stand defending traditional marriage between one man and one woman. They’ve criticized that I opposed an increase in the gas tax that would have added to the price of fuel at the gas pump. And they haven’t liked the fact that I’ve been an outspoken defender of life and the unborn. To these criticisms I will freely admit, “Guilty as charged.”

I understand there are differences of opinions among Republicans, even on these issues, and have always worked with Republicans who may personally disagree with me on issues of faith or conservatism. As Republican Party Chairman I’m committed to working with Republicans of all stripes and will do everything within my power to help Republican candidates win elections.

From my position as Republican Party Chairman, I have also always taken the position that it is important for us to lead on the issues in our platform. Our party platform is clear on the issue of marriage, tax increases and especially the issue of life. I was proud to bring in Governor Mike Huckabee last February for an entire day dedicated to the pro-life message. Governor Huckabee informed us that this was the first state GOP event he was aware of dedicated to protecting life. While some may criticize me for taking a stand and bringing in Governor Huckabee, the defense of the unborn is a plank of the platform voted on and approved by Republicans at our state convention in 2012.

As Chairman I have the responsibility of advancing the platform and listening to the grassroots who elected the board that elected me. 

Overall, I am proud to preside over a party that now surpasses the Democrats in voter registration. I’m proud to be Chairman of a party that has zero debt, hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, and has increased its outreach even more, especially to younger and more tech-savvy voters. I’m proud to work with a party that has true grassroots activists and even though we may disagree on some issues of procedure, above all I enjoy listening to feedback.

Finally, I do freely admit that on a philosophical level, I am a social conservative. I don’t make excuses for it and I don’t apologize for it. I am committed to working with Republicans of all types to promote and elect our candidates and build strong coalitions within the GOP. Beyond that, I do believe the platform of our party is one that’s worth defending. For many years there were some Republicans who expressed distrust or disdain toward members of the Christian Right. They weren’t pleased when issues of social conservatism took hold and were uneasy about the new members who came flooding in to the Republican Party.

However, today in Iowa we see that members of the Christian Right have become leaders within our party and have worked exceptionally hard to elect Republicans up and down the ticket. Just as I am proud to work with Republicans of all types, I am proud to join my fellow Christian conservatives and take strong stances on the values within our platform. While some may not like that I’ve taken a stand against tax increases and for the defense of the unborn by pushing pro-life causes, I must admit something in the interest of full disclosure:

I have no intentions of stopping.

As long as I am Chairman, the Republican Party of Iowa will promote its platform. The state party will oppose an increase in the gas tax, and I will stand up for Iowa families and oppose this tax increase, as well as tax increases of any kind. We will continue to openly champion education freedom and a foreign policy that keeps out brave troops out of unnecessary wars of nation-building and policing the world. We will continue to call out democrat legislators who advocate confiscating guns from law abiding Iowans. And above all, our platform is crystal clear that the right to life is one of the most basic human rights we have and the unborn should be protected. If you want your Republican Party to continue to defend life, than I am committed to this noble effort.

Those who adamantly disagree with me and believe these positions make me unfit to be Chairman, will have their opportunity to make a change when the next election for Chairman comes up. That’s the great thing about being involved in a party that wants feedback from its members and supporters. However, as for myself I have no plans to slow down when it comes to defending the principles of marriage, low taxes and life. Last summer I was proud to be Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa when Republicans surpassed Democrats in voter registration for the first time in nearly six years. Last winter and spring I was proud to preside over a party that spoke up for traditional values, low taxes, education freedom, a pro-American foreign policy and for the right to life.

While we may not always agree, I think I’ve been pretty clear over the past year about promoting our platform and the steps I’m willing to take to ensure our party is as strong as it can be. I enjoy being your Chairman and working with you to craft an even stronger party that educates Iowans, elects Republicans and advances the principles laid out in our platform. I am truly encouraged by the energy I see and am excited at the opportunities for success going forward.

A.J. Spiker

P.S. I look forward to visiting with you at our 2013 Republican Party of Iowa, “Ronald Reagan Dinner.” This year we are bringing legendary Senator Ted Cruz, fresh off his historic 21 hour filibuster of Obamacare.

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