BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
By now you may have read where GOP State Chairman Joe Nosef’s texts threatened to have supporters of Republican Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz forcibly removed from upcoming state caucuses by the MS Highway Patrol. According to reports Nosef said he is worried about the safety of those participating in the process, and confronted the Trump campaigns state chairman, Mitch Tyner, via text message:
“The bottom line is is [sic] I told you this can happen one of two ways,” Nosef’s text said. Either “we work together and include people that we trust and also happen to be Trump and Cruz supporters or we just put whoever we want on there have a big fight and end up in the contest committee in Cleveland. And like I told you, I can promise my cousin and anybody else if they even so much as raise their voice they’re going to be outside in the parking lot and they won’t be back in and, no, I won’t be removing them — somebody with a gun and a badge will be.”
The cousin he was referring to was my co-chairman for the MS for Cruz Leadership Team, Senator Chris McDaniel (actually they aren’t cousins, their wives are).
Nosef tried to spin the abrasive texts later by releasing a statement so full of spin that it should have come with a warning label of the possibility of nausea.
“This angle and this story is the opposite of the truth. I was expressing frustration because the two campaigns’ local leadership had no interest in working with us to ensure THEY didn’t end up in Cleveland in a delegate fight with each other about delegates.
“Secondly, the part about security at the state convention is there because our people deserve and expect that we will have a professional, secure environment. No one will use our state convention to grandstand or try to intimidate people into voting a certain way. We owe it to our people for them to be safe.”
Tyner told Supertalk MS radio personality Paul Gallo on Friday morning that he got the message from Nosef “multiple times before he put it in writing. And I couldn’t believe as a trial lawyer he put it in writing.”
“This is the exact type of rigging we don’t want,” Tyner said. “We want transparency.”
Although Mitch and I are supporting different candidates for President in this race, I speak for those of us on the Mississippi for Cruz team and say we absolutely agree.
But, it’s important for participants in tomorrow’s caucuses who may go on to be delegates to the state convention in May to understand that this worry by Republican Party officials is much, much deeper than just presidential politics related to delegates. This began last year.
In August, when Senator Cruz first visited Mississippi and before any votes had been cast in the primaries, I received an angry call from MS GOP Executive Director Spencer Ritchie. Ritchie was obviously very worried about attempts at what he referred to as “trying to take over the state party”.
Here is what I wrote in response to the call on August 12, 2015:
During our conversation-and that’s putting it kindly since mostly what I did was listen-[Ritchie] repeatedly referenced the United Conservatives Fund that was launched just a few months ago as an organization set up “to compete” with the state party.
Apparently UCF, of which I am a director and Sen. Chris McDaniel is Chairman, is of great concern to state party leaders. The Cruz Campaign’s Mississippi Leadership Team, which Sen. McDaniel and I co-chair, has quite a few of our UCF Executive Committee on board.
Let’s clear up what should be obvious. UCF doesn’t seek “to compete” with the state party. It’s not even set up that way. However, I make no apologies for the fact that we seek to hold feet to the fire, legislatively and organizationally. And, I’m sure that does make a few people nervous.
There is a simple truth that is the foundation of UCF and the foundation of our action that both the state party and their friends at Yall Politics can’t, or won’t, wrap their head around. That is this: Conservatism isn’t a product that is property of an individual or a group or a political party. It isn’t a label that can be worn regardless of substance, and it isn’t a formula that can be changed at the whim of party bosses. Conservatism is a social contract that belongs to the people. It is a set of tried and true tenets that history shows has worked time after time when followed. Our mission at UCF, and my goal personally, is to make sure the truth of that message is heard loud and clear and then vigorously acted upon whenever possible.
That worry by party leaders was further recognized by the amount of paperwork and instructions sent to GOP county chairman in preparing for the precinct, county and state delegate process. Numerous chairmen across the state have said they have never received this level of instruction and requirements from the state party HQ for the caucuses, some of whom have been in those positions for over a decade.
So, let’s do away with this newfound notion that this is about some safety issue or about working with the leadership of the two presidential campaigns. That’s hogwash.
I have served two terms on my county executive committee, resigning midway through the last term to focus on the 2014 U.S. Senate race in support of Senator McDaniel, as well as a few other political campaigns and other responsibilities to my family. I was recruited for that position by a party chairman that happily wanted to grow the GOP and to promote the party platform, and the conservative foundation upon which that platform rests. She nor I were “trying to take over the state party” then, nor is anyone now.
The difference in goals here is as obvious as it is a perfect example of what is wrong with our political discourse, is it not? Some are talking about maintaining power, while others are focused on principled participation.
If Chairman Nosef has evidence of a potential safety issue as he alludes to then he should provide that evidence to law enforcement and to the delegates and participants across the state who will be taking time from their lives this Saturday and again in May at the state convention. If he doesn’t, then he should immediately apologize for projecting his own fear and anger onto others who look to become a part of the MS Republican Party and grow our ranks.
It is simple. He and other state party officials should maintain the rules that have always applied to this process. Any attempts to protect or favor a particular candidate, group or state official smacks of the kind of corruption that has drawn new faces into the political process who want to challenge such misconduct in the party and in their government.
I can promise that I will be the first to denounce any efforts, organized or not, to disrupt the process. Conservatives only want the rules to be applied evenly and to let the chips fall where they may.
The chairman’s attempts to spin his angry messages as “frustration” at “the two campaigns local leadership” is more embarrassing than sending the texts to begin with. Quite frankly, both show a tendency towards emotional knee-jerk reaction that is unbecoming. The attempts at smoothing it all over for himself by blaming others is quite obviously nonsense.
All anyone from the MS for Cruz campaign organization wants, or those within the conservative coalition we have built through UCF, is for everyone to abide by the same rules and to treat each other with respect.
If the chairman is unable to do this then maybe the calls for him to step aside are warranted. That is ultimately a decision for the delegates and the GOP Executive Committee, and it might be why Chairman Nosef is acting so fearful this time around.
Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett