New day dawns for county GOP
Monday, March 25, 2013 10:00 PM
John Pickerill was one of the generally acknowledged leaders of the Tea Party in Montgomery County. He also was about as big an outsider to the inner-workings of local politics as it gets. Today, he couldn't be any further inside.
A few weeks ago, Pickerill was elected chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. He defeated incumbent chair and city councilman Scott Molin as well as county councilman Aaron Morgan. Some folks who pay attention to local politics said it was a surprise. A few who really were paying attention didn't think it was a surprise as much as a statement that some have had enough of politics as usual.
For his part, Pickerill seems to be taking things one step at a time. A U.S. Navy veteran and an employee of R.R. Donnelly, Pickerill said during a recent interview and in a column that appeared in The Paper Monday that he wants to restore the Republican Party, not change it.
Some Republicans would disagree. They say that Pickerill and other Tea Partiers are trying to take the local GOP in a different direction. A few are taking a wait-and-see approach. Others are drawing lines in the sand.
Where it will all end up remains to be seen. But for now, here are some points to consider.
1.Pickerill said he resigned from the Tea Party. In many writings prior to his election to the GOP chair, he consistently stated that the Tea Party was not part of the Republican Party. "It had to change for me," he said. "If the Tea Party is going to stay non-partisan and grassroots, then I had to step down."
2.Pickerill said that he wants to open the doors to the local GOP, something many say but few actually follow through on. Instead of small groups or cliques, Pickerill has other ideas. "We are the (Republican) committee, a committee of 54 people (chairs and vice chairs in 27 precincts). There will be a lot of things put to a vote that they never got to decide in the past." He added that his position of chairman is "simply the facilitator. The party will go places or not go places based on the committee." He summed up his open door philosophy like this. "We need to engage the grassroots. To the best of my ability I want the party to be accessible to anyone who wants to belong."
3.How does he think he won the top spot? "I knew we had a lot more support than most people thought we did. A perfect storm kind of came together. We're not in a period of prosperity right now, the banking and auto industries have been bailed out. We have a president who has socialist leaning beliefs. In Indiana, Richard Lugar started to trend left which is OK, but not when he began abandoning principles. Conservatives and little L libertarians, they want a party they can go to that will support the principles (they believe in), but they didn't see it in action."
4.Regarding Democrats, Pickerill said he gave County Democratic Chair David Hadley a congratulatory phone call after Hadley was re-elected a few weeks ago. "We had a nice talk," he said. "I asked him for (the Democrats) platform. I'd like to lay them out side by side."
Pickerill points out how the platform of the GOP and the Tea Party are almost identical. In fact, if you take away the labels, which some people simply can't do, I think most conservatives would agree with much of what Pickerill says. Of course there will be some disagreements. Republicans are divided on some things like planning and zoning, education and even how government should spend our money.
But after sitting with the new chair for an interview, the takeaway from this corner was that Pickerill wants open and honest conversations to take place. If the people decide and the process is transparent . . . well, wouldn't that be an outcome that ought to please a lot of people?
Pickerill did say that one of the things the committee will work on is getting candidates lined up for future elections. He did not name names about who might be candidates, or who might be opposed, but he did say that it makes sense to recruit Republicans to run against Democrats or even a few others. "Are you a Republican in name only?" he asked. "I would certainly want to talk to people first and let them have a chance to talk with our committee."
It's a new day for county GOP politics. Whatever happens next, it ought to be interesting to watch.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.