I wasn’t picked as the interim delegate from the 39th district, but I was honored to be asked to participate. And from that I learned a few things.
Firstly, the process is straightforward. When there’s a vacancy, as is the case after the resignation of Republican incumbent Ron Walters, folks submit resumes to the party’s executive committee, which interviews them. The only requirement is to be a registered party member and live within the district for a set period. Reasonable. They then send three names to the governor, who chooses one.
The committee also can reach out to prospects, as one did to me. “No, thank you,” was my first response. My immediate plans didn’t include a campaign. “Wait,” he wrote. “This is an interim appointment. The selectee won’t be eligible to campaign.”
Only if there’s no other candidate on the ballot will the governor’s interim appointee be eligible to run in the general.
If Walters had not run, other Republicans would have filed. But since Walters did run, no established Republicans in the district decided to file. So, one would assume any primary election challenger — which in this case is Sharon Lewis Malcolm, who filed in January to run for the 39th seat — holds different views or is unhappy with the incumbent.
Because the filing deadline passed, the insurgent is the automatic nominee, as she is the only Republican on the ballot in the May 8 primary, and hence will be on the ballot in the general election in November.
So, if you were the committee and the governor, who would you appoint to the interim position? Experienced operatives said it would be the insurgent, the de facto fall nominee, of course.
Who does this interim delegate represent? The district from which he or she comes or the party that chooses him or her? The second lesson: Based on the interview questions, it’s the party.
Nineteen questions were asked in 15 minutes. I thought at least some would be, “What’s the biggest challenge facing the district?” Or, “How would you prioritize state services for the district?” Nope.
Most questions were about public policy with the implication that they should align with Republican opinions. Fair enough.
Topics? Abortion and the Second Amendment were obvious but didn’t occupy as much time as I anticipated. Others included the recreational use of marijuana, support or opposition to co-tenancy for gas and oil rights, and shifting income taxes to consumption taxes.
But there was that very first question: Something like, “What have you specifically done to assist the Republican resurgence?” I wish I had mentioned that I provide constructive criticism weekly through this column.
But I didn’t have a good answer. However, what does the Republican resurgence have to do with representing the district? We’ve been represented by a Republican for more than 20 years.
I understand. Political parties are private organizations and can choose based on anything they wish. Again, fair enough.
But the real questionable inquiry was when I was asked with piercing eyes, “Have you ever donated to a Democratic candidate or a liberal cause?” Probably didn’t help that I said enthusiastically, “Absolutely.”
Water.org has been on and off my credit card for years. And my civic club discussed way too much man-made climate change at the international convention last summer to be considered conservative.
Nonetheless, based on that question, President Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have been picked. After all, he was a registered Democrat and a New Deal supporter who campaigned for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her 1950 race against Richard Nixon. And he encouraged Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president as a Democrat in 1952.
And even though he famously said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left me,” the facts belie that. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Reagan supported, didn’t have any views in common with Barry Goldwater, whom Reagan also later supported.
So, a delegate should represent the people of a district, not a party of puritans. Nevertheless, the governor appointed the insurgent Republican candidate, as predicted. And that’s the third lesson: Listen to experience.