GOP Rising Tide '09, Part II: Candidates to Watch in '10

In my post earlier this week, I discussed the meeting of the RGA’s Executive Roundtable and visit to Aspen Institute on August 3-4. I’ll continue here.

On August 7 and 8, I was honored to attend and speak at the Republican Governor’s Association 2010 Candidate Forum in Sun Valley, Idaho.  It was essentially a training forum for gubernatorial candidates.  More than 25 candidates attended, and speakers and panelists included Newt Gingrich, Governors Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Sonny Perdue, Jeb Bush, Linda Lingle, John Engler, and myself (not a governor, of course).  Idaho Governor Butch Otter, who also spoke, was our gracious host.

In my many years in politics, this was the best-organized and most professional political and policy event I have ever attended. The very subject matter –- focusing on a positive center-right agenda that would truly address the problems of the states and help people and communities –- was extraordinarily inspiring.

Newt pretty well laid out the themes of the conference in his opening night discussion about what our current and upcoming candidates need to do:

  1. Tell voters what you are for, why you are for it, and how it helps people and communities.
  2. Remember that as a candidate and governor, you are the leader of the state and need to be visionary and is a value setter.
  3. As governor (and as a candidate) recruit top talent to fill important positions – not just those people you know.
  4. Keep focus on the truly important vs. the urgent: the urgent too often overtakes the important, to the detriment of key goals of government.

Newt, Barbour, Engler, Bush, Perdue, and Lingle followed with superb presentations and discussions, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, “focused on building campaigns based on fiscal conservatism, effective governance and how to answer Democrat initiatives on health care; as well as bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry.”

Perhaps most inspiring was the quality and excellence of the candidates.  All were impressive and gave me great confidence in Republican prospects in the 37 gubernatorial races coming up in 2010.  To mention a few in key states:

  • Scott Walker is the 41-year-old three-term County Executive for Milwaukee County, and he has illustrated what it takes to win in a blue county, and a media market that contains 42% of all Wisconsin voters.  He has governed from the center and cut county government debt by 10%, reduced county workforce by over 20%, authorized eight budgets without increasing the property tax, and managed a small surplus despite the falling economy in 2008.  He won re-election in 2008 with 59% of the vote in a county where Obama received 67% of the vote in 2008.
  • Mary Fallin, a member of Congress who is our candidate in Oklahoma and whose consistent center-right, forward looking agenda will make her Oklahoma’s next Governor.
  • Bill McCollum, former Congressman and current Attorney General of Florida has a record of excellence in both his former and current post.  The voters of Florida seem to agree – witness his victory as Attorney General, and his lead in the polls.
  • Charlie Baker, who has been a highly successful health care executive with prior experience in state government, is our candidate in Massachusetts.  I believe he will follow in the footsteps of Bill Weld and Mitt Romney and become the next red governor in this bluest of blue states.

There were many other interesting and excellent candidates, but let me stop here. There will be much time to discuss them, and I look forward to writing more soon. This event and the whole week of August 3 to 8 increased my enthusiasm for supporting our gubernatorial candidates in 2009 and 2010, and reinforced my conviction that these are the men and women who will lead us back to a majority party.

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