All activists should think long and hard before allowing those who ran things into the ground back into any positions of authority, especially concerning finances. If a political party cannot govern its own affairs, why should the public support it on election day? The answer is, the public should not. If people are more concerned by their own power and advancement you should definitely beware. That describes a large number of people in politics. Which brings me to our election today.
The election of the new State Chair will be done by members of the State Committee. Members of this committee include up to four people elected by county parties - County Chair, County Vice Chair, State Committeeman, State Committeewoman (although I think we changed those last two to be State "Committeepersons"). Then you have elected members of the legislature (State Representatives and Senators) plus federal legislators (7 of those, US House and US Senate), and statewide elected officials (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, etc). Add to that mix the most recent past Chair (Randy Brogdon) and a few others, and you get something around 450 people. They're going to meet at Oklahoma City Community College to vote on three candidates.
Now that we know who votes, and when, there is a little bit more - how. There is a thing called a "proxy", which means "I can't be there so here's my vote, you get to cast it for me based on your own best opinion". You can use a proxy in a GOP Committee but not a Convention. You can also only hold up to 7 proxies - and you can only hold one state senator (the one you can vote for on election day ONLY) and one state house member (again the one you can vote for on election day). If anyone tries to vote two state house member proxies, that person should be stripped of both of them and escorted from the building, since they are attempting to cheat. And cheating is a big deal, since this position is an ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT one. How important, you ask?
The State Chair - of each state - is a member of the Republican National Committee. There are three people from each state (National Committeeman and National Committeewoman are the other two) who hold these position. Along with the 3 from each territory, they govern the Republican Party between each National Convention, which is held every four years - and that is where we elect our nominee for President. The RNC controls the convention as well, and money, and lots and lots of other behind the scenes things. In the state, the Chair manages the Party on a daily basis, gets paid to do so (although Randy Brogdon did not take a salary while the party was in debt, to his immense credit), and does a number of other things. One of those things is organize and manage the creation of a "slate" of candidates to be delegates to the next National Convention, which is next year. There are 25 on that slate, along with 25 alternates, out of the total of 43 Oklahoma carries. So the new Chair will be one of 43 votes for President, and have a lot of control over who 25 others are that cast that vote as well. Now you know why this is important. This brings us to the candidates.
Robert Hubbard of Canadian County, Pam Pollard of Oklahoma County, and Estela Hernandez of Oklahoma County are the announced candidates today. Robert is a long time activist, successful two time county chair, and current district chair (think US Representative District). Pam Pollard is a long time activist and former staff member of elected Republicans, and has held so many positions it would take another article to enumerate them all. Both of these candidates, in my opinion, have the experience to be a State Chair. Estela Hernandez started going to conventions, from what I can tell, in 2013. She was a county officer for one term, and was appointed to the Oklahoma County Executive Committee for the 2013/2014 term. She was elected as State Vice Chair in 2015. Her limited experience is not enough for this important and difficult position, although her willingness to serve is admirable.
Regarding ability, both Hubbard and Pollard have demonstrated the ability to manage organizations and have a history and track record of success. Hernandez is an unknown in this regard, although her family business could be pointed to as a model of success - but that is a much different thing than dealing with an all-volunteer army of people. You can't fire a volunteer, or write them up, or berate them. It takes a certain demeanor and approach to be successful in this area, and she just doesn't have the track record here.
Another major category to consider is the ability to build coalitions. Again, both Hubbard and Pollard have shown a level of competence and skill here. Hernandez, sadly, has not. Her short tenure in a leadership role (as Vice Chair) has been marred by major infighting with the previous Chair, and she has lacked the ability or will to work with others beyond the faction that has been backing her and promoting her to higher things. She is a polarizing figure, rather than a uniting one. This is fine, even admirable in a candidate for elected office, but not what you want in a party office.
Sadly, some have tried to make this about the race of Estela Hernandez. That is ridiculous - if anything, her race has benefited her. Most of us don't care what your race is, and those of us that identify with the "liberty wing" of the GOP are the most colorblind of all - unless you try to use your race as a reason to advance, and not your ability. That is a trick of the democrats, and she has used it. For this reason alone I would not support her.
The other major issue is one of character. There are some nasty things that have been going around, and mailed out to voting members of this committee. I don't know what is not true among those things. I do know that there is a recording of a meeting where Randy Brogdon was accused of yelling at her and treating her very poorly, and it completely and totally refutes that. A radio station in Tulsa listened to it, and then interviewed her. They caught her fabricating what happened - and that is unforgiveable. It looks very much like Estela Hernandez was actively working to undermine the previous Chair, which I believe is grounds for her removal from office. That is up to the State Committee to decide, should they choose to do so. This taped conversation and the radio interview are now public, from what I understand, should anyone wish to review them.
So, in my mind there are two candidates with the qualifications for the office. I have known both for a number of years, and get along with both of them well. If I were voting today, I would vote for Robert Hubbard, because I think he would be a more uniting force in the party. He is someone who has the ability to build coalitions, and gets along with just about everyone. I don't know of any enemies he has, either. As a side note, I will just announce here that I am formally resigning from the Budget Committee, since I was appointed under Chairman Brogdon. If the next Chair wishes my help, they all know how to contact me. Regardless of the outcome, the winner has a massive task ahead of them.