Over the last several months establishment Republicans have been working to silence conservative voices in the Arkansas Republican Party, primarily anyone who disagrees with Governor Asa Hutchinson’s big government agenda or his mushy position on social conservative issues.
The action of the Arkansas Republican Party County Chairmen’s Association, however, gives hope to conservative Republicans who want to be heard at the county level.
The statement adopted by the Chairmen’s Association reads in part:
“All Republicans and Republican organizations are hereby reminded that each County Committee has both the right and obligation to encourage healthy debate and deliberation within their County, and are free to invite any speaker or presenter that, in the view of their Chairman or other designated member of that Committee, or the County Committee as a whole, would contribute to educate and inform Republicans in that county on issues of concern.
Therefore, as representatives of the 75 County Committees, we remind our fellow Republicans of that any effort to restrict county committees from inviting guest speakers or any other presenter that they see fit violates the delegated and implied powers and responsibilities of each County Committee and County Chairman.” (Emphasis added)
Some readers are familiar with efforts to stop county Republican committees from inviting guest speakers who are too conservative for the Governor. For those not familiar with the controversy here is a summary:
- Fox News contributor Jan Morgan from Hot Springs was invited to be the keynote speaker for the Craighead County Republican Committee fundraiser, but after the event was advertised Morgan was disinvited. Speculation began that Morgan may have been disinvited because Asa supporters didn’t want her there.
- Soon after, Governor Asa Hutchinson’s administrative assistant Doug Smith contacted the Mississippi County committing criticizing their decision of inviting Morgan. Smith added to the intimidation by copying his complaint to the owner of the venue where the event was to be held. About the same time several Republicans in Baxter county reported to us that they too had been urged to disinvite Morgan.
- Some Republican county committees bowed to pressure but others resisted and did not withdraw their invitations.
- Pressure was stepped up when Governor Hutchinson personally met with a few committee chairs. In at least one instance, it was to pressure local committee officials to get in line and in at least one other instances it was to encourage them to stay in line as an Asa loyalist.[i]
- Morgan announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the office of Governor but has not announced whether she will be a candidate.
- Republicans in Craighead County continued to voice support for Morgan to speak to the committee. She was invited to speak at a later date and a large crowd came to applaud her.
- Jan Morgan was invited to speak to the Washington County Republican Committee. As was the committee’s practice with other speakers they posted a Facebook thank you to Morgan: “She’s a crowd favorite and friend of liberty! Thanks for speaking to our group and good luck with your future endeavors Ms. Jan Morgan!” State Chairman Doyle Webb contacted the Washington County Republican Chair to relay a complaint about the Facebook post, but Webb wouldn’t reveal who complained. After their conversation, post was taken down by the county chair.[ii] What had been so offensive about the post? Merely the words, “good luck with your future endeavors.” Supposedly this “thank you” might be interpreted by someone as possibly bordering on appearing as if the committee was taking sides in favor of Morgan. What? After a public outcry the chair added a different post on Morgan’s appearance.
- The events listed above have to do with trying to block Jan Morgan and any mention of her, but the effort to silence conservatives is not just about Morgan.
- Conduit for Commerce founders Joe Maynard and Brenda Vassaur Taylor were invited to speak at the Benton County Republican Committee about legislation from the 2017 session of the Arkansas General Assembly. Then at the last minute they were instructed not to say anything that would be critical of any Republican officeholders. (In other words, back when Democrats were in charge it was okay to criticize them for their tax and spend policies and weak record on social conservative issues but when a Republican officeholder pushes the same policies, Republican are expected to remain silent.)
- The Carroll County Committee also issued similar instructions to Brenda Vassaur Taylor to not say anything critical of establishment Republicans.
Were other speakers disinvited or gagged by county committees because the speakers don’t agree with Asa’s brand of big government growth?
You can see why we are excited to see county committees stand up against the establishment machine of Little Rock.
How Does the Resolution Change Things?
With the passage of the resolution:
- Will county committees escape pressure from establishment Republicans who want to silence conservative critics? No. The Governor and his allies can still plead with, cajole, entice, or bully county committee members to shut up and accept big government policies.
- Does this mean the Sebastian County Chairman will reverse himself and invite Conduit to speak to the county committee? Maybe not. Even though each County Committee has both the right and obligation to encourage healthy debate and deliberation within their County who a committee invites or doesn’t invite is totally up to the local committee – which is how it should be.
So why is the Chairmen’s Association resolution so important? By stating their independence and the need for healthy debate:
- The chairs have given county committees a basis for standing up against the Little Rock pressure, if they wish.
- The county committee chairs have shown they should not be considered vassals of Little Rock officeholders.
Some county chairs may continue to avoid speakers who do not support the big government establishment positions, but whatever decision is made will rest with the county committee and not Little Rock. That is good news.
Below is the resolution passed by the Arkansas Republican Party County Chairmen’s Association.