Playing dirty or just playing politics?

Some see the email sent out by Republican Christian Berrigan recently as part of an overt and ongoing effort to control the future of the Clark County Republican party. Others see it as, well, politics.

Conservative blogger Lew Waters titled his post on the subject, “Clark GOP Playing Dirty Again?”

Berrigan, of Brush Prairie, whose Twitter bio reads “American before partisan, conservative, before republican, dead before liberal,” was key in overhauling the Clark County GOP leadership in 2012.

At the time, the Clark County GOP supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary. Supporters of Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, along with other reformists, joined together to oust the “establishment.”  Their first step was to get anti-establishment Republicans elected to precinct committee officer spots. It worked. And now, it seems the reformists would like to stay where they are – in leadership.

PCOs are picked by voters every even-year primary. They conduct political outreach and vote on who should sit on the party’s board of directors. They are the heart of the party.

Berrigan recently sent out an email to some PCO candidates detailing step-by-step how to convince their opponent to voluntary drop out of the race.

Here’s an excerpt of the email from Berrigan (capitalization is his), “Please pay close attention, then make a very nice, friendly and cheerful call ON SUNDAY to see if they will withdraw … This does work and can be done. The general idea is to express the fact that YOU are EXCITED about running, and then ask them if THEY are also EXCITED to run. (Many people have been called at the last minute by the establishment and really could care less about running). You expressing YOUR excitement then asking them if they are excited is the KEY.”

Then he warns, “Do not talk about this email. Do not forward this email. Just make your one call to your one opponent and be super nice and cheerful. You want to create a situation where THEY OFFER to withdraw.”

Mary Graham, a stalwart of the party, has been a PCO since the mid 1960s.

“I’ve never seen this done before, where you ask someone to quit,” she said.

The goal usually, she said, is to encourage more people to get involved in the party.

The email has caused a storm of commentators to head over to Lew Water’s blog.

Carolyn Crain made several comments on the blog, including, “There is absolutely something wrong when a group of people thinks that they should secretly attempt to retain power by coercing the potential volunteer to drop their effort to run for pco office. If there weren’t something wrong it would not have been made with the attempt to hide it and everyone knows that. No amount of excuses will excuse it.”

Kenny Smith, the Clark County Republican board chair, said although the email was “clumsy,” he called a couple of PCO officers asking if they wanted to run and one said he didn’t really want to invest the time after he discovered it was a contested race.

“If you’re going to have a voice in the party leadership, it’s the PCOs that elect the leadership so there is no surprise that people would recruit people,” he said.


Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or Follow her on Twitter .

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