Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Delegate slugfest in Green Bay

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Delegates gathering in Green Bay this weekend for the Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention probably will have Governor Scott Walker and the remarkable turnout in Tuesday’s recall primary on the mind more than the US Senate race. However, behind the scenes the candidates for the Senate, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, businessman Eric Hovde and former Congressman Mark Neumann are maneuvering to control the convention delegates and ultimately the Republican Party’s endorsement.

At issue is just who can be a delegate to the state convention? For most of us with any memory of how the process works, to become a delegate to the state convention you had to be a member in good standing prior to the county party caucuses and then the caucus meeting would pick the delegates and the alternates. (Many years ago I was a delegate from the east side of Milwaukee.)

However, some county chairs have been feeling pressure from some recent joiners to the party to make them delegates, too. Encouraged by the Neumann campaign and a conveniently placed posting on the RedState national conservative blog, new members of the party are contacting county party chairmen under the false assumption that the chairmen could just appoint them as delegates.

This prompted a number of conference calls and contacts to the state party by chairmen concerned about the delegate selection process getting corrupted. I learned from one of the county chairs on Thursday that the chairs agreed that the delegates would have had to have been members in good standing prior to the county party caucuses, and that the “honor system” will be used to enforce the rules. On Friday morning, the credentials committee will have it’s final committee meeting before the state convention, and the county chairs will have a meeting in the afternoon.

Mark Neumann in his hospitality suite at the 2010 Republican Party of Wisconsin convention the night before he lied about his supporters being shut out of the convention. Photo by Steve Eggleston of No Runny Eggs

Complicating the discussions is the vote for the party’s endorsement for Senate on Saturday. Delegates will have three chances to reach the 60% necessary to give the party’s endorsement, including control of the party’s resources prior to the actual Senate primary in August. As one party chair put it, “Neumann and Thompson are fighting for their political lives.”

Because of his deep pockets, Hovde could possibly survive the party’s resources being turned against him by either Neumann or Thompson. The other two candidates would find it very difficult, as Neumann learned in 2010 when he ran for governor against Walker.

Recently the Neumann campaign reached out to me knowing my concerns about Neumann’s character and his campaign tactics in 2010. During an interview on Monday, I asked the former congressman and his campaign manager Chip Englander if they hired any consultants for this weekend’s state convention. They gave me the name of Burke Balch, a consultant they hired as a “parliamentarian” and an expert on Robert’s Rules of Order.

Somehow they neglected to mention they hired John Yob of Strategic National, a political consultant with a strong background in delegate counts and state convention fighting. For a little background on Yob, he was the national and state convention consultant to the Santorum campaign as they prepared for a possible brokered Republican national convention. Yob is known for his hardball convention tactics.

When I confronted Englander in an email about his convenient omission, Englander replied,

I didn’t say we didn’t hire someone for convention. I gave you Balch’s number who is the editor of robert’s rules and advises on conventions.

Yob advises us on a bunch of stuff. He didn’t do “conventions” for Angle, O’Donnell, or dozens of other gov, senate, or prez races he’s advised on. He does know about conventions, certainly, but so does Darrin Schmitz (Tommy) and the Anderson brothers ( Hovde).

The campaigns with the convention experts are Tommy b/c he has Darrin Schmitz who used to be state party executive director and has been to probably 20 wisconsin conventions and Hovde b/c he has Anderson brothers who helped orchestrate Ron Johnson’s impressive convention win 2 years ago. I don’t say that as a negative, by the way. They are welcome to hire whoever they want, and if they have convention experts good for them.

So because the convention specialist also just happens to give other advice, somehow that justified Englander and Neumann not answering my question.* For those of you who wanted Neumann to run for Senate in 2010, you’ll be happy to know the 2010 version of Mark Neumann is alive and campaigning.

It’s worth remembering that two years ago Neumann claimed he wasn’t seeking the party’s endorsement because he didn’t feel it was right, and he lied about his supporters getting shut out of the convention even though they could have all signed in as guests. Neumann told me on Monday that regardless of his feelings about the endorsement, because the party constitution requires the vote he was compelled to try to win it. Apparently he meant to add, “…by any means necessary.”

 

 

* To give you an idea of the ridiculousness of Englander’s response, imagine if I asked him who did the wallpaper in the campaign office. Instead of telling me who made the design decision, he only told me the name of the person who bought the glue. Englander would justify it later by saying, “But he also picked out the chairs in the room.”
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