Jack Roberts, the new state chairman of the Republican Party, has some big plans - and he's decided to seek a full, two-year term to the post he was appointed to in early January to carry them out.
Roberts, the party's national committeeman, was a consensus candidate nominated the first of the year to prevent a heated party fight. Half a dozen Republicans wanted to succeed Craig Moody, who resigned the chairmanship because of his leadership duties in the Utah House of Representatives.At the time of his appointment, Roberts said he didn't know if he'd seek a regular term as chairman when party delegates meet in June. Robert has decided to run, although he still may have opponents in the June GOP convention.
"There was one big question for me in deciding to seek a full term: Could I achieve what I wanted (for the party)? I'm now 80 percent sure I can, but I'm 100 percent sure that I can't do it in only six months," Roberts said.
Besides Roberts' new face in GOP leadership, there's a new party executive director: former GOP State Chairman William Stevenson.
"I'm delighted to get someone with the experience of Bill to run the day-to-day operations," Roberts said. Stevenson was state party chairman in 1979-81. He was Salt Lake County GOP chairman in the early 1970s, and has considered seeking the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District several times.
Former GOP Executive Director Greg Hopkins resigned to return to Washington, D.C., and seek his future in the Bush administration, Roberts said
Republicans dominate in Utah, but the party was split last year when conservative Merrill Cook - who had run as a Republican in a number of races - jumped the party and ran against GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter as an independent.
Cook got 21 percent of the vote in a losing cause, much of it from conservative tax-limitation advocates who would normally vote Republican.
Roberts, owner of Park West Ski Resort, said he wants to heal wounds where possible. "We need our (party's) ultra-right, as we need our left. We don't have much of a party if we only appeal to the moderate middle."
But Roberts doesn't see a reconciliation with Cook. "I'm a great believer in repentance. But I don't see Merrill doing that. Wooing (Cook) back into the Republican Party would be like wooing Benedict Arnold back into the military. What's the point? Frankly, Merrill Cook seeks a spot in the sun and he doesn't care how he gets it."
Cook is now working on a coalition with Democrats; their goal is an initiative petition drive that would allow voters to decide whether the state minimum wage should be increased and whether the sales tax should be removed from food.
Roberts has several goals he believes can be achieved over the next several years. To pay for his ambitious agenda, Roberts wants to raise $1 million a year through statewide fund raising.
"That's optimistic, but achievable," said Moody concerning the money. No more than $300,000 to $400,000 was raised during Moody's two-year tenure, including 1988, a major election and fund-raising year. "Republicans are a minority in Minnesota, but raise more than $2.5 million annually," Moody said.
Roberts' game plan
- Recruit and train the "absolute" best Republican candidates.
- Create a complete Republican campaign organization in each of the state's 1,662 voting districts.
- Launch a public education program showing differences between the Republican and Democratic parties in order to attract Utahns who list themselves as independents, but actually hold Republican views on most issues.