State GOP may rescind its brand new membership fee
Grumbling Republicans may be winning the argument over the new $25 fee to attend and vote at the state party’s annual meeting in January. The admission charge, announced late last week, may already be on the chopping block.
“We are aware that there are some Republicans around the state who are upset about the (fee),” Meg Stone, state Republican Party spokeswoman, wrote in an email yesterday. “A meeting of the (state party) executive committee to reconsider the fee is a possibility.”
There are more than “some” upset Republicans.
Even Jennifer Horn, one of two candidates running for state party leader, has spoken out against the new admission fee. In a letter written Saturday, Horn asked Chairman Wayne MacDonald and party leaders to reconsider the admission charge.
Other Republicans, like Rep. JR Hoell of Dunbarton, are planning to protest the fee by gathering outside the meeting in hopes they can deny the party the quorum it needs to vote.
“Several people got really irate over this,” he said. “This is not how you encourage volunteeers in an organization that is devoid of actual boots on the ground to do the work.”
And other party members, including Free Stater Seth Cohn of Canterbury, are accusing party leaders of enacting the fee to discourage people like him from attending. “It’s essentially a way to freeze out the grass roots (party members),” said Cohn, who objects to the $25 amount and the notion of a “fee-to-vote.”
Not true, said the man behind the fee, Concord’s Steve Duprey.
The party’s executive committee enacted the fee at its Nov. 16 meeting on the recommendation of Duprey, a member of the executive committee and the GOP’s national committeeman. All 21 executive committe members in attendance voted for the fee. If all 506 state party members attend the meeting and pay the fee, the party would raise about $12,650.
But Duprey said his real goal with the annual fee wasn’t to raise money. He said one active fundraiser could raise that in two years. Duprey’s real purpose, he said, is to change the way state party members see their obligations.
“The Democratic State Committee is out-raising the Republican State Committee,” Duprey said yesterday. “We need to broaden our base of donors. The message I want to send is that every member of the state party must understand this is not an honorary position.”
Duprey, who has served four terms as state party chairman, said no one should run for state party unless he or she is willing and able to recruit candidates, register voters, volunteer on campaigns – and raise money. The party no longer has the luxury to allow some members to pass on fundraising because they dislike it or aren’t good at it.
“I don’t know anyone who likes asking for money,” Duprey said. “I’ve started the discussion, and that discussion is that we are not going to win elections unless we broaden the base of contributors.”
Not all Republicans will have to pay the new annual $25 fee.
It will be charged to only those Republicans who run and are elected to the Republican State Committee. Those members are being elected now at city and county party meetings, and when the winners convene in January for their annual meeting, they will elect someone to replace MacDonald, who chose not to seek re-election as chairman.
Horn of Nashua and Andrew Hemingway of Bristol are competing for the voluntneer chairman position.
As of now, those state party members won’t be able to attend the meeting or vote unless they pay the $25 annual fee. (The Democrats do not charge state party members an annual fee, said party spokesman Collin Gately.)
Horn said yesterday she respects the work of Duprey and the executive committee to find new ways to raise money for the party, a priority she considers critical.
“However, I feel this is not the right way to do it,” she said. “These are people coming to (the annual meeting) to execute elected duties. To target them for these dues as a subgroup is the wrong approach.”
Horn would prefer to expand fundraising other ways, by using social media, connecting with donors outside the state and broadening the party’s grassroots efforts. She favors a new initiative by the party called “grassroots givers” where supporters of more limited means can pledge $20.12 cents a month, for a year.
“I think that has the possibility to be wildly successful,” Horn said.
“I agree with (Duprey) completely,” said Horn, who has Duprey’s backing for chairwoman. “We need someone who can dedicate full time to the position (of party leader) so we can raise the level of resources that are necessary to win races. As a party, we need to be able to compete and win no matter what the national trend is. This requires a significant amount of financial resources.”
Horn said the party needs $500,000 a year or more to be successful.
Republican Lee Quandt of Exeter, who lost his re-election bid for state representative last month, has found himself “chuckling” over the new fee. Quandt crossed party lines last year and fought Republican efforts to pass right-to-work legislation and stop mandatory union dues.
“We just went through a hell of a battle over forcing people to pay when they don’t want to,” he said. “And now they are turning around and doing it to their own delegates. I’m chuckling over the hypocrisy.”
Hoell, who supported right-to-work bills, agrees. “I’m appalled the GOP would resort to the same strong-arm tactics that the unions use,” he said.
Hoell agrees the party needs to broaden its membership and get members to be more active. But charging a fee to carry out an elected position is so offensive to him, he said it would discourage him from asking others to support the party.
Republican Seth Cohn of Canterbury is a party delegate and will vote this week on which candidates to elect to the state party from Merrimack County. If he elects someone who can’t or won’t pay the $25 fee to particpate in the annual meeting, his vote will be denied, he said.
“I’m disgusted by the internal politics,” Cohn said. “It’s a sign that we have some real big-tent issues that have to be resolved because the party is split right now.”