Time for new leadership at the RNC 

Having once again planted his foot squarely in his mouth with comments about Afghanistan, the drum beat has started among some factions for the resignation of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. And the charge, such as it is, is being lead by an unlikely leader: Chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party Gary Emineth. Soon to be ex-chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party.

Just days ago I broke the news on my blog that Gary Emineth would be stepping down from his chairmanship (state Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark is his likely replacement), with Emineth citing family reasons and business concerns for his decision. Emineth was a volunteer chairman for the state party.

But now, raising the eyebrows of many in the state, Emineth has been quoted in the Washington Times over the holiday weekend as saying he quit his position to prepare for a possible challenge for Steele’s national chairmanship.

I’m a bit bewildered about the way Emineth handled this turn of events, telling local media in North Dakota that he was stepping down for personal reasons while telling national media that he’s preparing for a challenge to Steele, but all the same it’s welcome news for this conservative.

This isn’t the first time Emineth has stirred the pot nationally. Back in April Emineth told talk radio host Scott Hennen that he was refusing to sign a letter of support for Chairman Steele being circulated among RNC members (audio), and before the RNC chose Steele as chairman Emineth was leading the charge to ensure that the process was transparent and reflected the choice of RNC members and not certain party bosses.

Here in North Dakota, as well, Emineth has always stirred the pot. When the tea party movement sprung up in the state last year, Emineth was quick to embrace it. Not annex it to the party, mind you, but rather to open the party’s arms to the tea partiers many of whom have felt alienated from Republicans. Emineth’s efforts culminated in a “Win Back Washington” event held in Bismarck that featured every statewide Republican politician sitting in a room and listening to - not speaking to - tea party crowds.

It was a coup, though not one that made Emineth very popular with some of the free-spending, somewhat less-than-conservative elected members of his state party. In fact, many in the state party resented the efforts to include these new activists, but as a someone who has spoken at and/or helped organize a dozen or so tea party events in North Dakota I can say that Emineth’s efforts to be inclusive haven’t gone unnoticed.

In summary, Emineth is a strong leader who stands on principle and isn’t afraid to mix it up. He’s socially conservative and, more importantly to me, fiscally conservative. And I speak from personal experience. I have a long history of being critical of North Dakota Republicans, yet in 2008 in advance of the party’s statewide convention Emineth reached out to me personally and requested that I attend. Emineth even paid for me to have a booth at the event for my blog.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a party-line guy. I’ve never pulled punches when it came to Republicans. Emineth knew that, but invited me anyway.

In this election year, Democrats are likely to lose a lot of ground. But they’ll have done so not because Republicans have won back that ground but rather because Democrats have so thoroughly enraged the public that the electorate has taken it back. If Republicans don’t want to suffer the same fate a few years hence, they’d be wise to fine some leadership in this rudderless party.

Emineth can provide some of that leadership, both on the ideological side of politics (where he’s sound) and on the nuts-and-bolts side. Michael Steele has been a disaster in terms of inspiring Republicans, doing more to sow dissension in the ranks than to promote unity, and his fundraising hasn’t been much better with the national party under Steele’s leadership (per Emineth’s testimony) often investing nearly as much in the cost of fundraising as that fundraising brings into party coffers.

The national Republican party needs a firm hand on the rudder. The Republican movement needs principld leaders. Emineth could be both.

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Rob Port

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