I think we are all well aware of the botched job party leaders did in northern NY for the McHugh vacancy election; Stevie Wonder could have seen what was likely to occur and did occur. Perhaps the Republican activist base needs to ascertain whether we have a breakdown in candidate recruitment and selection for key House races; and determine how to fix this before the process for the '10 cycle goes off the rails.
In a "Back to the Future" approach, I thought back to a prior election cycle when local activists decided to screen their own candidates and put forward someone whom they thought would give the Republicans a good chance to win a tough seat. To wit, California 12, 1946.
As Voorhis served his fifth term in the House, Republicans searched for a candidate capable of defeating him. Local Republicans formed what became known as the "Committee of One Hundred" (officially, the "Candidate and Fact-Finding Committee") to select a candidate with broad support in advance of the June 1946 primary election.
The Committee tried to persuade prominent local leaders to jump into the fray, and sounded out former district native Gen. George Patton to ascertain his interest. Having whiffed on such a prominent candidate, they then interviewed a number of other hopefuls, and decided the one that impressed them the most was a young lawyer in the Navy, Richard Nixon.
On November 1, 1945, he flew to California to meet influential Republicans and give a speech at a Committee meeting. The meeting was advertised throughout the district and was open to any potential candidate. However, the advertisements for the meeting noted that Nixon would be flying in to speak. A number of potential rivals also showed up at the meeting on November 2, 1945, including a local judge and assemblyman. Nixon, who spoke last, was "electrifying", according to one Committee member. When the Committee met to vote on November 28, Nixon received over two-thirds of the vote, which was then made unanimous. Committee chairman Roy Day immediately notified the victor of the Committee's endorsement.
This process was important to Republican success that year as California held a primary with an early cutoff date and a former Republican congressman was seeking tp return to office on an openly bigoted platform. He decided to run as a third party candidate and attracted little support.
So, what does suburban L.A. in the last century have to do with now? Well, what it shows is that in that election prominent Republicans decided they could not rely on party bosses to find candidates and anoint a nominee. Nor could they take their chances on whoever decided on their own hook to enter the primary. and hope the voters would give a credible general election candidate a pluraility of the vote. No, they decided to get the process moving themselves.
Perhaps the Republican rank-and-file needs to establish its own "Committee of 100" groups of prominent non-office holders in districts around the country. It's pretty obvious the smoke filled room didn't work very well in NY 23, and if the party thinks "certified pre-owned candidate recruitment" is the answer, we are likely to be very disappointed.
We need to find the new type of candidate who is articulate, independent and in touch with his community. If you don't look, you won't find.