Jack Lindley had a bit of good news at Saturday’s Vermont Republican Party State Committee meeting.
The Republican National Committee (RNC), Lindley said, will be funding a new position for the Vermont GOP, bringing its staff to three, and supplying them with some “computer hardware.”
Lindley, the chair of the Vermont party, presented the news as proof that the national party isn’t neglecting some of its more far-flung affiliates. (The RNC did not pitch in during the 2012 election cycle.)
“A 50-state strategy means no one is left behind, and we’re not being left behind and we should all be proud we have support from the national committee,” Lindley told the crowd of about 45 that met for three hours in a dim, chandelier-lit room at the Elks Country Club in Montpelier.
Loyalty to the national party has been Lindley’s refrain as his party seeks to recover from a trouncing in the 2012 elections, and he stuck to that message Saturday.
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, meanwhile, has been advocating for distancing Vermont’s party from its national ties, and Seven Days’ Paul Heintz and Vermont Press Bureau’s Peter Hirschfeld have both reported that he is actively recruiting a replacement for Lindley.
Scott wasn’t at Saturday’s meeting due to the death of a relative. Lindley said he doesn’t begrudge the lieutenant governor’s efforts to unseat him.
“I wish him success,” Lindley said.
That doesn’t, he clarified, mean that he won’t run for re-election. “If he’s successful in finding someone else, good luck.”
Republicans went cordially about their business, the main piece of which was approving a new strategic plan. Lindley described it as the “guts and soul that will drive this campaign.” The plan, political director Brent Burns said, was informed by “16 two-inch binders of data,” but Burns provided only a broad-brush sketch to the crowd.
Legislative seats will get most of the party’s attention in the 2014 elections. Party leaders have homed in on about 18 districts where they think they can unseat vulnerable Democrats. The goal, Burns said, is to increase the number of Republicans from 45 to at least 55 in the House and get out of “super minority” status.
“We have run the computers. We know where the vulnerable Democrats are,” Lindley said.
Burns said he’s been soliciting potential candidates with the help of House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton.
“More people are coming out of the woodwork and saying, ‘I’m not scared to be a Republican in Vermont,’ and that is progress,” Burns said.
“We haven’t actually approached any potential candidates at this point,” Turner explained. “We are just basically doing the homework part of it — talking to people in the communities and collecting names.”
Turner also said he’s especially interested in finding younger candidates and people who might not fit the mold of “your traditional Republican candidate.” (Turner described this as “non-business owner type people, people that are involved in their communities in different ways.”)
“I am very concerned that we don’t have the young base that the Democrats supposedly have,” said Turner, who is 49. “When I look around, I’m one of the youngest people, I think, oh, my God.”
Turner is also fighting legislators’ retirements, too — nine Republican incumbents chose not to run last election cycle, and according to Turner, there are others in his caucus contemplating retirement.
“I know that I have some work,” Turner said. “We are asking them to please at least consider sticking around for another election cycle to give the party a chance to grow.”
What about the statewide races?
“It’s just early,” Lindley said. “No one is willing to raise their hand at this particular time.” But he’s not worried about a shortage of candidates. “They’ll be plenty, they’ll be plenty. Don’t you worry.”
Randy Brock, the Republican’s 2012 gubernatorial candidate, was in attendance Saturday, but he’s among those not raising a hand, just yet. Asked if he’ll run again in 2014, he replied, “Who knows?”
Another objective in the strategic plan is to “win the Web,” which, Burns said, will mean, among other things, getting more Republican lawmakers on Twitter and Facebook.
Health care reform — and, in particular, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s recent proposal to use a payroll tax to fund single payer health care — was the buzz on Saturday.
“How many of you are small-business men?” Lindley asked the group. A number of hands went up. “That tax is a killer,” he warned.
“Businesswomen, too,” someone called from the audience.