GOP 101: Township, ward and county organizations (Part 2)

I’ve alluded to General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency plan in the past – the parallel for politics is obvious. Petraeus’ plan called for a troop surge and the execution of a “clear, hold, and build” strategy to win ground in Iraq. In my view, the “build” part in politics can be accomplished through the construction of a healthy network of active state and local GOP operations.

At minimum, local organizations should set up a leadership team and outline their annual goals. It’s all about getting the GOP message out to as many people as possible.

Voters must be registered — to do that, a local organization needs to keep a list of all current residents and know who votes and how they vote. In 101 of 102 Illinois Counties, Precinct Committeeman are elected by voters every two years. In Cook County, the Township and Ward Committeemen are elected and they in turn appoint precinct captains.

It’s recommended, when possible, for a local organization to have an office or store front so its presence in the community is felt. Invisibility gets a local GOP organization nowhere.

Unless space can be donated, renting an office will cost money. Consequently, that leadership team needs to appoint a Fundraising Chairman.

A website is fundamental as well, since increasingly voters are turning to the web for political information.

Typically the structure of the organization includes a Chairman, Vice Chairman, a Treasurer, and a Secretary. Other common leadership posts include a Voter Registration Chairman, and a Precinct Committeeman Chairman responsible for recruiting people to fill the open precincts.

A local GOP organization should be all about outreach. If people don’t know you exist then the possibility of fulfilling your mission is diminished. Local organizations can sponsor town hall meetings to discuss state and local issues. They can host debates between candidates. When contentious local issues arise they can provide a forum for discussion and the input of ideas.

The local party can and should be a resource of institutional knowledge when it comes to a slew of political details. Whether we’re talking fundraising, campaign management, or lists of possible volunteers, local parties can be a font for learning how things are (or can be) done. Just as importantly — they should retain the materials so every new campaign doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

For those local groups willing and able to go beyond the minimum, there are countless ideas for constructive and productive activities. For example, a well developed website can help convey to the community important state and local issues that are of particular concern to the members of the organization. It’s a way to engage the citizens every day.

Depending upon interest, the local GOP website could provide links to appropriate governmental watchdog efforts. With over 6,000 units of government and an evolving media landscape, there is an increasing need for citizen oversight of state and local government that the Republican Party should be involved in and encouraging strongly.

Who are the locally elected leaders — the boards, the commissions, the local opinion leaders? What are the budgets of the local governments? How many people are employed by these governmental units? How well are they functioning?

Again, with the growth of government at the state and local level, the need for citizen oversight has never been greater.

Obviously as election day approaches, the Precinct Committeemen are charged with reaching voters in their precinct by knocking on doors, via phone where appropriate, and through the mail. A person that stands for election as a Precinct Committeeman should commit to fulfilling the duties of the office. If they don’t, they certainly lack standing to hold other elected officials accountable for how well they perform their job.

Up next: Personnel makes all the difference.