( – promoted by EaBo Clipper)
This interview with Jennifer Nassour, candidate for Chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, is the fifth in a series of interviews with conservative and libertarian leaders throughout the state. The purpose of the series, What Happens Next, is to gather perspectives on the current state of the Massachusetts Republican Party and Massachusetts politics.
Garrett: How would you describe the current state of the Massachusetts Republican Party? How did it get to where it is today?
Jennifer Nassour: The MassGOP is like a boxer who’s taken some serious hits and has fallen down, but is getting back up. Some might think I’m too optimistic in that assessment, but they haven’t spent the past couple months talking to Republican activists who show a devotion and passion to the party that gives me hope for the future.
I’m not interested in pointing fingers and assigning blame, because that divides us instead of unites us. I do think we need to refocus the party on building the grassroots, enrolling more Republicans, strengthening local committees, and growing from the bottom up. In the past, we focused too much on the top of the ticket and as a result saw support and strength erode at the bottom.
Garrett: What prompted you to run?
Jennifer: I care about the future of the Republican Party in the United States and in Massachusetts. It’s bad for our nation and state to have one-party rule. We’re seeing the corruption it fosters here in Massachusetts. I also saw that the MassGOP needed to re-energize fundraising and re-engage the grassroots, and I felt I had the time, ability, and energy to devote to this important work.
Garrett: What do you think Peter Torkildsen did wrong and what do you think he did right?
Jennifer: The MassGOP owes Peter a debt of gratitude for not only his service as chairman, but also his years of service in elected office. As chairman, Peter substantially reduced the party’s debt, so the hole we need to climb out of is a lot shallower. Under Peter, the MassGOP built its new media infrastructure and outreach, which is a powerful tool. I’d like to build on the fundraising efforts by creating a Finance Committee so there are a lot more of us invested in raising money. And I’d like to employ the new media efforts to expand communication with our activists and members and spread our message among the grassroots.
Garrett: You mentioned you’ve developed a plan for the state party, what are some of the key points of that plan?
Jennifer: In my plan, I make a pledge to the State Committee, in which I promise to:
• Harness the energy, dedication and spirit of Massachusetts Republicans and lead a resurgence of the party.
• Unite the willing segments of the party into a single team focused on shared goals, and to refocus the energy spent on frustration and past differences into positive teamwork and forward progress.
• Empower fellow State Committee Members to contribute and lead efforts across the Commonwealth to rebuild the MassGOP.
• Move the MassGOP forward by focusing our collective efforts on four fundamentals:
• Fund raising,
• Grassroots and the Field,
• Messaging, and
How we accomplish all of this is a very good question, and the plan addresses that. I think the key is through teamwork among Republicans of every stripe and office in Massachusetts, and also by reaching out to the GOP in other New England states. And by cooperating with natural allies in Massachusetts, such as business groups, think tanks and others.
Garrett: What would you say is ideological make up of the Massachusetts Republican Party? How is it similar/different from the national party?
Jennifer: Like the national GOP and even the Democratic Party, the MassGOP has divisions within the party. I think we largely share fiscal conservatism, but begin to differ on social issues. As chair, I will encourage all Republicans to have a seat at the table and work together to elect Republicans.
Garrett: How would you describe your own personal political views?
Jennifer: I describe myself as a conservative, but I am not running for chair to promote my personal political views. I’m running to rebuild the MassGOP so Republicans of every belief have a strong organization to back their efforts and win elections.
Garrett: How would you deal with corruption within our own party?
Jennifer: We are the fiscally conservative, pro-taxpayer party, and as such, we can never condone or look away from corruption by anyone in politics, especially Republicans.
Garrett: There is a growing call to rebrand the party. Some are even suggesting renaming the party. What do you think?
Jennifer: It’s an interesting idea, and I understand where it’s coming from. That fact of the matter is we are Republicans, and perhaps what we need is to do a better job of defining and pitching the brand.
Garrett:What are your thoughts on the Friday Morning Group?
Jennifer: It’s important to the future of the MassGOP that we develop alliances and share ideas with like-minded organizations and individuals. And it seems to me that is the basic premise of the Friday Morning Group. The MassGOP needs to develop relationships with its natural allies, such as social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, Second Amendment supporters, school choice advocates, and business and trade groups. The Friday Morning Group is a place to hear from various thought leaders and to build those networks.
Garrett: What did you think of the fight over the House Minority leadership?
Jennifer: I will not take a side in this contest, and as chair, I will not take sides in Republican primaries. I will say that I believe primaries among Republicans can strengthen and battle-test our candidates.
Garrett: Why do you think Question 1 failed badly? (Full disclosure I was the Press Secretary for the Yes on Q1 Campaign…)
Jennifer: Question One managed to get about 30 percent of the vote even though the campaign was badly outspent by its special interest opponents. So while Question One failed, there is still a strong anti-tax sentiment in Massachusetts. The area of lower taxes and fiscal responsibility continues to be territory where the MassGOP must stake its claim.
Garrett: How did your experience in New York politics prepare you for Massachusetts?
Jennifer: As the saying goes, I cut my teeth in New York State politics. I was involved with several young Republican organizations and worked for Republican county and state legislators. I saw how those organizations ran and were successful by building strong grassroots through teamwork and leadership. There are lessons and friendships from the New York State Republican Party that I can use to help rebuild the MassGOP.
Garrett: Do you plan to take a salary as party chair?
Jennifer: Paying a full-time chair is not sustainable with our current fundraising levels. I will not accept a salary if elected chair and will be a full-time chair. However, I think the State Committee should keep open the possibility of incentive pay if the chairperson is meeting fundraising benchmarks which leave the party in a position to incentivize and compensate a strong performance.
Garrett: Where do the Ron Paul folks fit in the state party? Will you honor the agreement that was made at the RNC between them and Torkildsen?
Jennifer: Every Republican should have a voice in the MassGOP, regardless of which candidate you supported in a primary or whether there are differences on certain issues. In order to grow, we need to join forces and not continue to fight amongst each other. It is my hope to organize as many local committees as possible and fill state committee vacancies, and I’ll need the help of all Republicans to do that.
Garrett: Current staffers at the party…do you plan to keep them on?
JenniferI don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss the status of employees because they have rights to privacy. I do greatly appreciate the work of each member of the MassGOP staff, and I think each of the current positions is critical. From my point of view, the staff make up will be largely dictated by available finances and the personal plans of each individual.
Garrett:How do you combat the trickle-down from the Democrat at the top of the ticket come election time?
Jennifer: There is no easy answer here. We’ve seen this problem in the last two presidential elections.
I think we have to start with a return to the grassroots and a return to campaigning basics. We need to build our local organizations and recruit candidates who are well-established in their communities, so they turn out voters actively supporting them in order to counter opponents who garner votes just because they are Democrats.
In addition, the MassGOP needs to target and engage vulnerable Democratic officeholders early in their terms, rather than waiting until the election season. A soft Democrat is less likely to survive, even if the top of the ticket is providing momentum.
We also need to build the political infrastructure to help and support the Republicans who are running at the top of the ticket, especially in non-presidential years such as 2010.
Garrett: What do you think the proper role is for a party chair?
Jennifer: Ultimately, the role of the party chair is to create an organization under which candidates can win elections. Given the current circumstances, we need a full-time chairperson to lead all our efforts in grassroots growth, fundraising, and communicating our message. The chair needs to motivate and empower the State Committee, staff and activists to develop and execute a comprehensive plan, which I have begun to draft and share, although I expect it will get better as I gather feedback. The chairperson must be a leader.
Garrett: The new media already plays a large role with the current state party, will you continue that as party chair?
Jennifer” Yes, of course. It is one of our core strengths. New media is central to growing and energizing the grassroots, to communicating with our supporters and empowering our activists to promote the MassGOP in their neighborhoods.
Garrett: How often do you read Red Mass Group?