With a host of candidates lining up to challenge embattled RNC chairman Michael Steele, one large group of voting RNC members’ is bringing in FreedomWorks — the branch of the tea party run by Dick Armey — to help with the vetting of candidates.
Solomon Yue, an RNC member from Kansas and a co-founder of the RNC’s Republican National Conservative Caucus (a 26-member group of the RNC’s 168 voting members that has adopted much of the tea party’s rhetoric and message), laid out his plan to bring FreedomWorks and the average tea partier into the process of selecting the next chair in a telephone interview with TPM.
Yue said including tea partiers in the vetting process was required to find the right person for the job. The next RNC chair “doesn’t have to be a tea partier,” Yue told me, but he or she “needs to be tea party compatible.”Yue says he has no dog in the more than 10-candidate hunt for the next RNC chair, but he admitted that he’s among the voting members who would prefer to see someone other than Steele in the chair’s office.
That’s where FreedomWorks comes in. Starting Wednesday, the Conservative Caucus will host a two-day candidate forum run by FreedomWorks. Yue said it will include a number of the names in the running to be the next chair. (No word yet on whether Steele, who has yet to make a formal announcement about his future with the RNC, will be in attendance.)
The Conservative Caucus and FreedomWorks have developed a questionnaire that Yue said will be used to create a tea party-friendly score for potential candidates. On Wednesday, the candidates will be interviewed by two FreedomWorks representatives before an audience in Washington as well as a web viewership of tea partiers nationwide. FreedomWorks members will offer their own score of the candidates which will be presented to the 168 voting members of the RNC along with the results of closed-door interviews by Yue and his caucus on Thursday.
What will emerge, Yue said, will be a “people’s choice” candidate selected by FreedomWorks members. While that person may not end up being elected by the full membership of the RNC, Yue said including the tea party in the selection process was the best way to find a chair who will incorporate all of the party’s needs heading into 2012.
“We need to unite all four legs of the freedom movement,” Yue said, paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s “three-legged conservative stool.” Yue said that in addition to Reagan’s legs of fiscal, social and national security conservatives, “tea party activists” need to be added to the modern GOP constituency.
Though Yue is just one of the 168 voting members candidates will appeal to in the weeks before the January election, he’s in a position to be influential. As a member of the RNC’s executive committee, Yue will also be leading an investigation into Steele’s management of the preparations for the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, which media reports have suggested could be yet another financial scandal for the chair. Steele has been accused of spending a fortune setting up staff in lavish accommodations years before any serious money need be spent. Yue said he expects the investigation to be completed before the RNC elections in January.
Yue said he reached out to FreedomWorks to represent the tea party in the chair’s race because of the group’s ability to organize large groups of tea partiers quickly and effectively (he pointed to the huge crowd that assembled for the first Washington 9/12 rally in 2009) as well as its proven talents in organizing tea partiers to assist the GOP, which Yue said was evidenced by the group’s assistance in creating the so-called Contract From America, a tea party policy agenda which drew high praise from GOP leaders as they set their own 2010 electoral policy agenda.
That kind of working together by the tea party and the GOP establishment is the future of the Republican party, Yue said, and therefore it should also be the future of the RNC.
“The tea partiers are watching,” Yue said. “Hopefully, we can find a tea party compatible candidate with conservative values, managerial skills and the ability to raise money.”