I would like to share some thoughts regarding Kevin Cramer’s decision to pass over the Republican Endorsing Convention. As a district chairman, long-time activist within the Republican Party, and organizer of the first Fargo Tea Party rally, I feel I can offer a unique perspective on this choice.
I consider Kevin a friend. I have known him since 1996 and have donated to his many campaigns including his most recent bid for Public Service Commissioner.
Here is the problem I have with Cramer’s decision: He has proffered the notion that his bypassing the Republican Endorsing Convention was based around his desire to allow more people to participate in the selection of the candidate who will represent the Republican Party in the 2012 election. Cramer states, [This election] “is far too important to leave out even one voice, one vote” and “Every Republican should have a wide-open opportunity to robustly debate and participate in this process”. His concerns are the concerns of all Republicans and are valid, but are not realized or alleviated by his choice regarding the convention. I can’t speak to what is in Kevin’s heart, but this claim is simply false based on the process.
The Republican Endorsing Convention is a time-honored method which begins by individual districts electing delegates to represent them. All citizens are eligible to enter this process and compete to participate. Next, through debate sponsorship and dissemination of information as well as candidate contact, the party, at state and local levels, encourages and enables these delegates to look objectively at the participants in the many races, and ultimately vote for their preferred candidate. At that point, the winner of the contest (by popular vote) becomes the Republican Endorsed Candidate and is qualified to appear on the ballot in the primary election, held a few months later. From there, the voters of North Dakota have the right to accept or reject the candidate endorsed at the Republican Convention. If by majority, they vote for the endorsed candidate, that candidate goes on to the general election, if they reject that candidate in favor of a challenger, the challenger goes on to the general election. Skipping or participating in the Republican Endorsing Convention has no effect whatsoever on primary participation or eligibility to vote. For Kevin Cramer to cite a desire for more people to be involved in the process as his reason for bypassing the convention tells you that one of two things are true; either he doesn’t know how the endorsing convention and primary work, which is highly unlikely considering the number of them he has actively organized and participated in, or it is a disingenuous claim aimed at garnering the support of those who do not understand the reality of the nomination process, but can emotionally relate to the suggestion of voter disenfranchisement, even when there is none.
So if that isn’t the reason, what is it? I would surmise that the reasons are these: The first and foremost reason to bypass the Republican Endorsing Convention is an inability to win. I know that Kevin knows that he doesn’t have the delegate support to win. I, as with most active Republicans, received a number of calls from phone banks asking if I would support Kevin either financially or with my vote. If you add up the numbers and don’t have enough to win, why participate? It makes sense. Going to the primary after being defeated at the convention appears as sour grapes. The next reason is money. It is well-known that Cramer has raised a lot of money. I won’t go into where it came from, but suffice to say, he is doing well when it comes to fundraising. If he preserves his funds until the primary, he will have an advantage over the Republican nominee, (who spent the bulk of his or her funds winning the endorsement) which could make it easier to bury them in the primary vote. Don’t get me wrong, these are valid reasons, but not the reasons we are being lead to believe motivated the choice. The facts illustrate that this is simply a self-motivated maneuver to usurp the will of the delegates and destroy the nominee when they are financially weakened.
I won’t argue for a minute that this may be the best path for Cramer to take, and I don’t dispute his right to make this call. I only want to shine the light of truth and reality upon the false notion that this move is borne of nobility and selfless advocacy for the rights of the voters, or that it, in any way, leads to the inclusion of more voters in the process. Politically savvy, maybe; noble, not by a mile.
John Trandem is a Fargo-area Republican activist and the NDGOP chairman for District 45.