In last week's paper version of Unfair Park, we took a look at the local GOP through the eyes of Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman. One of Neerman's critics, Texas Workforce Commission chair (and my former boss) Tom Pauken, says Barack Obama was an important reason why the Democrats did so well in Dallas County. However, he stresses that there are some major changes needed in the Republican leadership in order to level the playing field for Republican candidates.
"Nothing against Jonathan and his predecessors, but if you keep doing things the way they've been done the past two election cycles, things aren't going to get any better," Pauken says. "We've got to get a warrior in there, to be frank. Get a Ken Molberg type on the Republican side as county chair. That's what we need."
Pauken says a priority should be addressing the alarming discrepancy in straight-ticket voting, which amounted to a gap of more than 100,000 Democrats in this year's election. This advantage, he claims, made it impossible for strong judicial candidates to have a fighting chance or Lowell Cannaday to have an opportunity to unseat Lupe Valdez, someone he describes as a "terrible" and "incompetent" sheriff.
"We need some grassroots leadership to go back to organizing neighborhood by neighborhood, precinct by precinct, as we did way back when we were in the minority," he says.
But could the GOP have possibly done better in the sheriff's race had their candidate been younger or a minority? Or perhaps both? "I don't care if it had been Roger Staubach running for sheriff against Lupe Valdez," Pauken says. "With that kind of split, it's virtually impossible for anyone to win on the Republican ticket. I don't think it had anything to do with Cannaday being a white older guy."
Speaking of minorities, Pauken says the party must find a way to reach the Mexican Americans who were strongly behind Ronald Reagan and were engaged by George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas and ran for president. "The patriotic values of the Hispanic community -- faith, family, hard work, serving in the military -- those are all values that naturally lend themselves to an alliance with the Republican Party," he says.
The Republicans and the media need to pay more attention to the activities of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Pauken says, which has been very aggressive in pushing straight party Democratic voting and in supporting Obama. "This is an organization that uses tax dollars and has been involved in fraudulently collecting voter signatures all over the country, and yet there wasn't a peep from our local media or Republican leadership about their activities in Dallas County."
Through the course of my reporting, I was unable to find anyone able to substantiate any significant activity by ACORN locally, but Pauken claims members were very active in Irving, Oak Cliff and East Dallas. Pauken, a Roman Catholic, also notes that the organization has received funding from the Catholic Church "to push a very liberal agenda." The Catholic Campaign for Human Development cut off funding to ACORN in October after it was announced that nearly $1 million had been embezzled by Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke.
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Pauken claims the GOP has been hijacked by neoconservatives and "pragmatic big business corporate liberals," and says the party must get back to a populist conservative stance, which includes representing the middle class, small businesses and the average citizen. Additionally, Pauken says Republicans must establish a new principle conservative philosophy that addresses the issues people are facing today, such as how to put the economy back in place, build the manufacturing base and lessen the country's dependence on foreign energy.
"There are plenty of good issues that conservatives have plenty of effective solutions to, but we've got to get the message out, and we have to get back to being the party that the average person says that's the party that speaks for me as opposed to a small group of special interests or a small group with big money," he says. "The irony is the Wall Street crowd -- the private equity moguls that leverage our companies up with tons of debt -- were more behind Obama and the Democrats than the Republicans this time."
Pauken says the party must rethink its strategy and tactics to perform better in 2010, and cannot assume Dallas County will simply turn back red because either Kay Bailey Hutchison or Rick Perry will be heading the governor's race at the top of the ticket.
"Until or unless a major effort is done to look into what went wrong and get new leadership in there, it isn't going to get better," he says. "Maybe marginally, but we're still slipping badly." --Sam Merten