I had the chance to attend the Night of the Rising Stars event last night. It was presented by the Republican Party of Iowa. It was a great event. $100,000 was raised for RPI, and there were approximately 1000 in attendance at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.
I attended the reception prior to the event and was able to speak with the Polk County “rising stars” (new members of the Iowa General Assembly): Representative Chris Hagenow, Representative Peter Cownie, Representative Erik Helland, and Representative Kevin Koester. I also spoke with Representative Renee Schulte (Linn County) and Representative Kent Sorenson (Warren County). I am connected with those two either on Facebook and/or Twitter, so it was good to meet them in person.
I was also able to meet Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Vander Plaats. I was able to talk a little with him. He shared that they raised $80,000 at a fundraiser with Governor Mike Huckabee so it seems he is off to a good start. The other talked about potential (neither man has formally announced though Vander Plaats has filed and his announcement will be a formality) Gubernatorial Candidate Representative Christopher Rants was also at the event. I was unable to speak with him.
Eric Goranson (one of our contributors) was also in attendance was able to introduce me to the last good governor (in my opinion) we had, Governor Terry Branstad (1983-1999). Eric served in his administration. So it was great being able to meet him (though I’m sure I met him before during school tours in the capitol building when I was a kid). Governor Branstad now serves as President of Des Moines University.
Matt Strawn, the new Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa welcomed us at the beginning of the program. Money quote for me was when he said, “just 496 days until Iowans tell Chet Culver his services are no longer needed.” I was very impressed with our new chairman’s enthusiasm and speaking ability. He was introduced via video by RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, Mary Mosiman (Story County Auditor), and former Governor Branstad also spoke introducing different video vignettes of different rising stars with the RPI.
Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi was the keynote speaker and focused on party-building. I didn’t take notes, but I wanted to highlight Craig Robison’s reporting of the event:
Governor Barbour focused on party building in his speech, but not before taking a couple of shots at Governor Culver. When being introduced by RPI Co-Chair Jim Kurtenbach, he mentioned that Barbour had defeated a two term incumbent governor. Barbour quickly corrected him by saying it was only a one term governor like Chet Culver, because if it would have been a two term governor, the state would have been bankrupt. Barbour also said that Culver is floating bonds to pay for on-going expenses.
Barbour had a little fun with his recent ascension to RGA chair. He said, “As you make know, I’m the chairman of the RGA.” People applauded, he then added, “Just yesterday I was the vice chairman.” Barbour then explained that he was in Iowa because the RGA thinks that Republicans can win in Iowa, and he pledged that the RGA will be by our side working to defeat Chet Culver.
Barbour then focused on how the Republican Party must rebuild. He first said that Republicans are a better party when we build from the bottom up, and that you have to go to the grassroots not to just knock on doors, but for policy development. In addition to the building from the bottom up, he also said that Republicans must build up their small donor base and use cutting edge communication tools to reach people.
He also covered unity in his speech, but I want to cover that in a different post.
The program was upbeat and generated excitement. It is a good first step in re-energizing the party.
Videos were well done for the most part.
Food… the cost of a ticket was $100 – pretzel mix? I’m glad my ticket was comped or I would have been irritated by that. Also you had to purchase beverage – not good with a $100 ticket price.
Barbour is right on with the GOP now being a bottom-up party, especially now that the GOP is out of power. Grassroots efforts are key, as well as embracing new social media tools to get the message out.
We need to stay on message, and communicate the message of small government, fiscal responsibility, and personal responsibility.
I disagree with his statement on unity, and I’m going to cover that in a different post.
There is a lot of work to do, but I think Democrats could be in trouble in 2010.
You can see the rest of my pictures here, and different people were tweeting during the program (including yours truly), you can read those tweets here. Bob Vander Plaats put together a great slideshow that you can watch below.