Louisville-area Republicans lost a lot of ground in 2006 when Democrat John Yarmuth claimed the Third District congressional seat from the GOP’s Anne Northup, who held the office for ten years. Yarmuth defeated Northup again last year, and the presidency and Congress have also shifted into Democratic hands.
Now the Louisville GOP is making some adjustments, as it plots strategy for next year’s local, state and federal races. WFPL’s Stephanie Sanders caught up with some local Republican leaders to find out more about those preparations.
Kentucky may be in the red state category, but it includes a sizable blue chunk…..Louisville. Brad Cummings is the Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman – he says winning elections for his party has always been tough here.
“We always are fighting an uphill battle as the Republican Party here in Jefferson County,” says Cummings. “That’s why it’s important to have a strong county party that can stand up for our candidates.”
Cummings says Anne Northup’s five-term tenure in Congress is proof it can be done, but there’s no room for mistakes.
“We have to be very, very good at getting our message out in a much more effective way than the Democrats have to,” Cummings says.
In the Democratic push that led to the election of President Barack Obama and a majority in Congress, a lot of credit is given to the support of young people and first-time voters. Adam Cochran is the chairman of the Jefferson County Young Republicans. He’s at the front of an effort to reach out to young people, and recruit them into the party.
Cochran says he has to cut through a lot of stereotypes and misinformation – to get to the core of the conservative message.
“We have to say ‘Look, Republicans are people with moral clarity. They know right from wrong, and they make their decisions based on their own free will and choices, not on the government’s’,” says Cochran.
He says the GOP faced two major obstacles with young voters last year: candidate Obama was successfully painted as the ‘hip’ choice, which carried into other races, and the mindset of young people has changed.
“They have a greater sense of entitlement than ever. I’m not for that,” says Cochran, “I’m for you earn everything you get, and you shouldn’t expect to get a trophy for coming in dead last.”
Deanna Brangers is the Chair of Kentucky’sThird District Republican Party – she represents Louisville at the state party level. Brangers says instead of rethinking conservative platforms, Republicans should embrace their core principals.
“We have strayed from those and that is part of what has gotten us in trouble, and I think we do need to come back to what makes us Republicans, what binds us together,” she says.
Brangers says that trouble includes voter backlash over the approval of government bailouts in the wake of the nation’s financial crisis. As for ramping up for the 2010 elections, she is optimistic the party will find the right candidates at all levels.
“Not only are we putting together what I would call a very strong candidate recruitment effort, and looking for candidates in every office, but we have people who are wanting to run for office. What a great problem to have! It’s not a problem at all!” says Brangers.
Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Brad Cummings says while it may seem to outsiders that not much is happening within his organization, a lot of work is being done behind the scenes.
“We think this is the most important year,” says Cummings. “That the work we do in 2009 will prep us for 2010. Otherwise you end up constantly running behind yourself.”
That work includes candidate recruitment and fundraising right now, Cummings says it will get busier over the summer.
“It’s really important for us to have all gears going right now so we’re a well-oiled machine in 2010,” says Cummings.
(Sanders) “So would you say all the gears are going right now?”
“I would say (laughs) I would say 80-percent of the gears are going right now.”