A few days after being elected as Republican County Chairman, Rick Holtz asked me, "All three of the other officers, as well as you, have been heavily involved in the Tea Party. What affect will your guys' decision making come from a Tea Party way of thinking? What are your thoughts on the fact that Tea Party members swept the officer spots for the party?"

The question is an important one, but probably not in the way he intended. In theory, the "Tea Party way of thinking" and the "Republican Party way of thinking" are the same when you compare the Tea Party mission statement and the Republican Party platform.

The Montgomery County Tea Party's mission statement is: "To restore limited government, fiscal responsibility, and accountable representation through citizen activism and education, in order to preserve the blessings of liberty and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America."

The Indiana Republican Party platform lists among its Core Beliefs and Principles: Defending our U.S. and Indiana Constitutions; Fiscal responsibility by living within our means, specifically by keeping taxes low and government spending under control; Federalism that recognizes the importance of state and local government and the limits on federal power; Personal Liberty and Freedom from intrusive government interference and regulation, the personal liberty and freedom of each individual being paramount. It also has a whole section titled, "Limited Government is Good Government" and another titled "Transparency and Accountability."

In other words, there isn't really much difference between the two organizations, ... as long as each one is actually acting in accordance with its stated philosophy. 

My personal feeling about why mostly Tea Party and Liberty Movement candidates were elected on March 2, was that many of the Republican county committee members, who are the ones who elect those officers, were troubled to see the Republican Party drifting away from its conservative and libertarian roots over the last twenty-five years.  Ronald Reagan was elected on his conservative and libertarian-Republican views in 1980.  But since that time we have lost our way.  Many were troubled in by the Republican Party's choice of such a moderate Presidential nominee in 2008.  Senator Dick Lugar was seen as the typical "establishment Republican" trending to the political left in his actions and votes, compromising with the left to the point of contradicting Republican principles.  I think when the housing market crashed, and then when Barack Obama was elected as President, it reached a tipping point.  Conservative-Republicans and libertarian-Republicans finally said, "enough is enough" on government spending and encroachment on our personal liberties.  That's when we witnessed the sudden rise of the Tea Parties and Liberty Movement.  The Tea Party in our county was formed in 2011.  Here locally, taxpayers have questioned how much money the city and county have spent on projects such as overly-extravagant high school buildings, the Commerce Park, a new building for Ivy Tech, and funding 75 percent of MCED's budget, all without objectively justifying the costs.  The other big local issue I see most conservatives and libertarian-Republicans opposed to is county-wide Planning & Zoning because of its negative impact on individual property rights and personal liberty.

As far as the decision-making of the new officers goes, the four of us are not as monolithic as Mr. Holtz's question implies.  Two of us are heavily involved in the Tea Party, but one of us is not associated with it at all. Each of us is free to think independently and so I don't speak for the others on what exactly goes into their decision making.  What does bind the four of us together is we strive to stand on principles instead of mere political expediency.  Those principles are contained in the Republican Platform.  As Republicans, the goal of everything we do and say, every vote we take, every candidate we support, every dollar we spend, should be focused on upholding the political philosophy enshrined in the platform.

On a more practical level, I will be giving back decision-making authority to the county committee, in accordance with the Rules of the Indiana Republican Party.  The 27 precinct committeemen and 27 vice committeemen are the committee.  One of the responsibilities of any chairman is to ensure each committeeperson is given the opportunity to voice his/her ideas and opinions, to debate those ideas, and to vote on which ideas become the direction of this county GOP committee.  This will undoubtedly result in different factions forming within the committee because of our mix of "old guard" and grassroots.  But this is a good thing.  It will open healthy debate on controversial issues and help each side better understand the other.  This, after all, is the very purpose of a committee.

Our goal is not so much to change the county Republican Party.  Our goal is to restore it, to its original integrity and its original greatness.



John Pickerill is the Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman. His column is part of a series of columns that appear in The Paper of Montgomery County on Mondays from public officials.