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More to the point, they argue that the Republican brand of politics and policies must change. And many see themselves leading that transformation.
UW sophomore Kyle Curtis is also gay, part Yakama (he left White Swan in the heart of the reservation to attend school) and secretary of the Washington State Log Cabin Republicans (LCRWA). Curtis agrees with Washington’s newly-elected Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the sole Republican to win statewide office last fall: “We need to be more principle-based and less platform-based,” says Curtis who is hopeful that Republicans’ recent losses at the polls “will cause us to reflect on what we’re doing wrong.”
As a self-proclaimed “moderate” Republican, Lauren Pardee believes that “the national party has to rebrand itself, become more inclusive and more moderate.” Pardee is a Republican because she believes in personal responsibility. She would like to see the party get back to its roots and focus on economics. She is skeptical of federal government solutions. “Decisions closer to the people who are affected is best,” she says.
A 2011 UW graduate, Pardee says she “was always willing to put myself out there as a Republican. It’s not very popular to do that.” Kyle Curtis, by contrast, often leaves his Republican affiliation off resumes and job applications.
While friends who are Democratic Party volunteers find jobs in government offices and progressive nonprofits, Republican volunteers like Pardee return to work at retail stores and restaurants.
Tony Williams, chair of a Bellevue-based Republican political consulting firm, served as chief of staff to former Sen. Slade Gorton. Back then he recalls employing 20 young people who were learning government as well as politics. "Team Gorton" was a formidable force in local politics, and its alumni went on to powerful roles within Microsoft, Boeing and other Northwest organizations.
"Today we don't know what to do with our young people,” says Williams. “They are attracted to movements and Rob's campaign (we thought) was a movement.” But what started as a movement fizzled by late summer.
“It was crushing to be honest,” says Pardee, about the loss. “It’s hard to get involved unless you really believe. When Rob lost it was like the air went out of the room.”
Asked if the loss made her more determined or less determined, Pardee pauses. “If you asked me three days after the loss I would have said I’m getting out of politics," she says. "Rob (McKenna) became grief counselor to everyone. He wants us to stay involved. Rob pushing is something that helps.”
In the wake of the 2012 election season, Kyle Curtis and his Collegiate Republicans got together to ask themselves two questions: Why did we lose? And what does the party need to do in order to survive?
There were predictable suggestions about more outreach to minorities, and about avoiding hot button social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. There was a sense that McKenna did not need to challenge Obama’s health care reform policy known as Obamacare, and support for Paul Ryan’s balanced budget approaches. And there was lots of frustration about being outclassed by the Democrats in campaign technology, something especially frustrating for younger workers.
A document written by UW's Collegiate Republicans noted that Democrats were better organized and resourced, especially from a technological standpoint. The Democrats provided UW students with a hotel room equipped with high tech phones, a set-up that completely outmatched the Republican phone-calling capacity.
A source familiar with the GOP's national campaign organization told Crosscut that there is a group of underlings in national headquarters who are interested in technology but that the party's leadership doesn’t really get it.
“They know they need to infuse technology into campaigns,” says the source, “but they are not yet in positions of authority to really make the budget shifts.”
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