Lowden report card, F for failed leadership
September 30, 2009: Las Vegas, NV. – In 2007, Gov. Jim Gibbons handpicked Sue Lowden to chair the Nevada Republican Party, touting her leadership as the key to turning the party around. Now that she’s resigning more than two years later, what do the Republicans have to show for it? The Nevada GOP is broke, disorganized and demoralized from electoral defeats and from watching their governor, lieutenant governor and junior U.S. senator mired in scandal.
What’s more, under Lowden’s “leadership” the Nevada GOP has descended into an all-out civil war that according to some leading members threatens to destroy what’s left of the party. The situation is so dire that two separate groups have launched efforts to bypass a failed state party organization in the hopes of restoring the Republican brand. Times are too tough and too serious for Nevadans to take a chance and hope that Sue Lowden will do a better job in Washington than she’s done in Nevada.
So, on Sue Lowden’s last day as chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, let’s look at her progress report:
Party Building: F
When Gibbons handpicked Lowden to head the Nevada GOP in April 2007, voter registration was dead even between Republicans and Democrats. One year later, Republicans were down 57,000 voters. By election day 2008, the Democratic lead had grown to more than 100,000 voters, including an advantage in traditionally Republican Washoe County.
In a year and a half, Lowden took the GOP from an even playing field to a more than 8 point voter registration disadvantage. And today voters continue to run from the Republican Party, with Democrats registering four voters for every one the Republicans register.
Lowden did such a bang-up job of rebuilding the state GOP that Rep. Dean Heller and Sen. John Ensign made an end run around the party to form their own independent rebuilding effort – the Republican Renewal Project – which itself collapsed once Ensign’s affair and payoff scandal broke.
During Lowden’s term as chairwoman, Nevada Republicans have been wracked by scandal upon scandal. Gibbons was embroiled in controversy, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki was indicted for misappropriation of state funds and Ensign was caught in an affair that has resulted in serious FEC and ethics complaints.
And how did Lowden react to the affair, to the subsequent revelations that Ensign’s parents had given $96,000 to the mistress’ family and to the ensuing ethics and FEC complaints? She attempted to circle the wagons. But she failed at even that. Not even her own party would get on board; half the state GOP board and party chairs refused to sign a letter of support for Ensign. Lowden went on to call fallout from the affair – which resulted in an FEC complaint that, if substantiated, could result in fines and jail time – “a personal matter.”
When Lowden took over as chairwoman, the party had an office and permanent staff. As Lowden resigns as chairwoman, the party has neither. One national political writer who swung through town found that there was no answer at Clark County GOP headquarters, where the state party is currently squatting, and messages go unreturned.
Lowden even lost control of her own state convention after Ron Paul supporters accused her of taking the process out of their hands and trying to railroad her handpicked national delegates through. The dispute created a schism in the party that continues to this day. When her job was to unite, she divided, leaving a fractured and broken party structure.
Even Lowden friend and supporter Chuck Muth, a former state party executive director and county party chairman himself, described the effects of Lowden’s failed leadership this way: “Lord knows the GOP appears to be suffering from a major case of swine flu these days — and it’s gonna take more than two aspirins and some chicken soup to make it all better.”
Lowden’s presumptive candidacy for U.S. Senate itself is a testament to her failed leadership. During her tenure, the preferred Republican candidates have fallen left and right. And her bench is practically non-existent. So Lowden must run herself.
So, one would assume that the Nevada GOP would rally behind their leader and chairwoman. Not so fast. A growing chorus of GOPers have signed on to support the Democratic incumbent, including Republican kingmaker Sig Rogich and the wife of the man who put Lowden on her throne. And the Republican primary field is thick with third-tier challengers to her candidacy.
2008 Election: F
When Sue Lowden took over as chairwoman, Republicans controlled the state senate and had two Clark County Commissioners and a three-term incumbent in Congressional District 3. And Nevada had voted for Bush for two terms.
“As a party we have a lot to do in preparation for the important 2008 election cycle,” Lowden said when Gibbons anointed her. “I pledge to roll up my sleeves and get right to work so we can elect good Republican candidates up and down the ticket.”
But on election night 2008, Democrats took control of the State Senate for the first time in almost two decades, gained a supermajority in the State Assembly, took control of all seven Clark County Commission seats, defeated Jon Porter and took control of Congressional District 3 for the first time since its inception and delivered Nevada’s electoral votes for Pres. Barack Obama by an historic margin of 12 percentage points.
Sue Lowden took the podium at a morose “victory” party in Las Vegas. She called the year ahead, “a rebuilding year.”
But Lowden isn’t sticking around to take on the rebuilding. After all, hasn’t she done enough?