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Is Republican senatorial candidate Mark Neumann attempting to stack this upcoming weekend’s Wisconsin Republican state convention with delegates?  Or is the “Establishment” attempting to freeze out grassroots activists from the state convention?  A close look at the facts suggests both accusations might be true.

During the state convention, candidates vie for official Republican Party of Wisconsin endorsements leading to the August 14 congressional primary.  This year, Mark Neumann is competing with former Governor Tommy Thompson, state representative Jeff Fitzgerald, and businessman Eric Hovde for this trophy.  The delegates will play an important role in determining official state party endorsements.  As such, all candidates attempt to win the support of delegates prior to the convention.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin Constitution governs the selection of delegates to the state convention.  Article VIII, Section 4 states,

 Such delegates shall be elected by members in good standing of the Republican organization in each county at the regularly called County Caucus for the election of such delegates.  The members in good standing at the County Caucus may authorize the County Chairman to substitute delegates after the County Caucus if the County Chairman certifies in writing that the added delegate is a member in good standing of that County and the deleted delegate, if any, has no objection to the deletion.  No substitutions shall be allowed after the last meeting of the Credentials Committee prior to the convening of the convention.


These rules define the delegate selection process.  The state delegates are to be selected at the county caucuses.  If any substitutions are made after the caucus, the County Chairman must have been authorized to do so by those in attendance at the County Convention.  In addition, any deleted delegate must agree to the switch.  The language “the deleted delegate, if any” implies that a substitution does not necessarily involve deleting another delegate.   Thus, the County Chairman can also fill allocated delegate slots which remain unfilled following the County Caucus.

These unfilled slots may be quite numerous. The Republican Party of Wisconsin Constitution Article VIII, Section 3 (b) allocates one delegate for every 250 Republican votes cast for governor in the preceding election.  Based on Scott Walker’s 2010 vote totals, more than 4,500 delegates could theoretically gather at the state convention.  After all, last year was the biggest nonelection year attendance in over forty years.  Even so, just 1,050 attended.  Presumably, nearly 3,000 delegate slots remained open! This year, a record attendance is expected of up to 2,000 attendees.  Yet, still this would leave over 2,000 delegate slots unfilled.

Our source says the Neumann campaign has been actively encouraging people to sign up as delegates to the state convention.  The strategy seems to have worked, as hundreds of delegate applications flood in.  Unclear is whether the county chairs have been authorized by those in attendance at the county caucuses to make such substitutions and appointments.

The state party credentials committee attempted to amend the rules to only certify as delegates those who signed up prior to the end of the county caucus.  Such an attempt to change the rules in the name of “clarification” does serve to alienate these potential delegates.  The credentials committee should instead be ensuring that the party constitution be followed.  Namely, any delegate additions may only be made (1) at the discretion of the County Chairman and that (2) such Chairman will have been authorized by the County Caucus to make such additions.

Simply following the party constitution as drafted will avoid ostracizing grass roots supporters and will also stop the Neumann campaign (and any other) from flouting the delegate rules.  Rather than amend the rules, the credential committee should enforce the rules.

Concerns that the Neumann campaign will drum up needless controversy are understandable.  In 2010, Neumann’s supporters picketed the state convention.  Neumann alleged that his supporters were being denied access to the convention.  After this feeble attempt to attract sympathizers, Neumann admitted the picketing supporters failed to sign up as delegates, alternates, or guests.

The Republican Party rightfully emphasizes the importance of the “rule of law.”  It’s time that GOP candidates operate campaigns in accordance with that principle.  It’s also time that those in charge of the party infrastructure enforce the rules as written.  Such enforcement should be equally applied, regardless of any official’s personal candidate bias.


Follow Joel on Twitter @joelgriffith

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