Monday, March 9, 2015

County GOP Convention Reports: Bryan County

Bryan County, on the southern border of Olahoma

Part one of a four part report on the 2015 Republican County Base

By Guest Contributor, Holly Gerard, of Durant
County breakdown: about 22k voters
Republican affiliation: 23%
2012 Republican presidential support: 72%

The Bryan County GOP Convention

Holly Gerard - Bryan County GOP
With 19 delegate voted allotted for the state convention, Bryan County Republicans are looking forward to continuing to build our voice in both our local area and within the state GOP. Our county is in a great place right now a place that perhaps 'larger GOP' counties don't get to enjoy - locally we are reminded literally every day that we are all in the trenches together working to grow the Republican brand here in Little Dixie.

We are constantly reminded that we have to stick together, and most importantly, stay true to our conservative principles which are detailed in our party platform. It is very evident to us with conversations in the community, that if we do not practice what we say we believe, our neighbors will be convinced that we are not any different than the party that had a stranglehold on this part of the state for the last 100 years. As Republicans here, we know that if we let down those that are trusting us to do right, we will lose the foothold we are finally gaining in growth of our registration and elected officials.

We look forward to our group attending and participating meaningfully in the State Convention, delivering our Resolution, and working in the years ahead to continue to turn our county, state and nation Right!

Our GOP group are all friends, and we have built a strong camaraderie after six successful years in organizing to elect our first Republican State Senator ever, Josh Brecheen, first Republican State Representative ever, Dustin Roberts, and are now working hard to turn local county officials Republican as well. Ron Boyer became our first Republican County Commissioner in 2014, and in our non-partisan City Council in Durant we have now elected 2 registered GOP council members within the last year. At this moment, we are all together working hard to gain yet another local city council seat.
We've come a long way since six of us sat in a neighbor's living room with then State GOP Chair Gary Jones in 2009, hoping we could somehow begin to turn the tide in Southeast Oklahoma. And now, we are still 'new' enough to remember when we had no voice, which helps us to continue to welcome each new activist who comes to our meetings into our growing circle. As each person joins, it is a celebration that we are turning hearts and minds - whether a longtime Republican who can finally 'be public' in their views (still something that people are nervous to do in our part of the state!) , or they have finally been able to make sure that their party registration reflect their values. It is a victory in itself for people to realize they can register Republican and will have candidates to vote for in the local races. Even more exciting for us is seeing young adults turning 18 and choosing the GOP right away. We have certainly entered a new era in Little Dixie!
An important piece of our Convention is to remember how far we have come as a county organization, with different age groups represented and discussions of our upcoming goals as we continue to raise our profile within our still Democrat majority registration. And, we do still take a little time to talk about important issues going on that are important to our area and communities.
With our team approach and knowing clearly threats that seek to weaken our party, our County passed unanimously a Resolution condemning Stand for Children's behavior in attacking Republicans in the 2014 general election. This lobby group that supported only democrats in the general election, attacking Republicans in an attempt to weaken our Republican majority. This same group had delivered petitions with fake signatures on it to the State Senators last Spring in an attempt to convince the Legislature to keep Common Core in law despite thousands of parents asking for the state to assert control of our standards and assessments. Their 'dark money' PAC spent over $360,000 in attack commercials on Republicans while hiding their donors. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission assigned them a $10,000 fine shortly after the election for their filing irregularity.
Our Bryan County GOP officers were elected without contention. We do not elect a slate; we have all felt strongly that people should be elected on their own merits. Our previous County Chair moved out of state, so we had an open seat there, and we had several wanting to try either new positions in leadership or try an elected office on the central committee. It is a testament to how closely we all work hands on in elections and in county activities: we open for nominations and people literally volunteer to fill the spot. This year, we did not have anyone run against each other, but last Convention we actually did have some contested races, and even then the campaigning was conducted with dignity, simply communicating their ideas for how they could move the county party forward, and without attacks on any other candidate.
This year, a previous county chair will now serve as District Committeeman, and a retired longtime volunteer who helped to organize his precinct and worked hard at county events in Senator Brecheen's reelection became our new County Chair. Our Treasurer (thank Goodness, I'd bet in most rural counties this is the hardest job to fill!), and other officers were asked to stay on and all did with unanimous consent of the group.
This year, we had speakers concerning the upcoming State Chair's race, SRLC, a Congressional Representative, and a GOP candidate for Durant City Council speak. The Convention was rounded out by the listing and unanimous consent of the 19 volunteers who wanted to travel to OKC for the Convention (we did have exactly 19 volunteer), people wanting to serve on the Platform committee, and then answering questions even after the gaveling down of the Convention from those eager to know how the Convention works and how we can be sure that conservative values are reflected as our party moves forward.

David Van Risseghem

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