As we noted a few weeks ago, former Ohio Secretary of State and current Family Research Council fellow Ken Blackwell is seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. In recent days, he’s secured several “high-profile endorsements from the Club for Growth, Gun Owners of America and prominent conservatives like Steve Forbes” and now it looks like he is taking the next step in his attempt to consolidate his standing as a front-runner by announcing that he’s found a like-minded running mate:
Texas Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser has teamed up with Ohio´s Ken Blackwell in the contest to lead the Republican National Committee over the next two years.
The Washington Times has learned Mrs. Benkiser has decided to forgo a run for RNC national chairman and instead to run for co-chairman, a traditionally less powerful position that historically, with one exception, has been held by a woman.
“If I ran for chairman, I decided after looking over the field, it might contribute to dividing the conservative vote and allowing a moderate to win,” she told The Times in a phone interview Tuesday.
In the draft of a letter to be sent to other voting members of the national committee, she writes that she “decided to run for the co-chair position because a chairman candidate has emerged who has everything it takes to help us restore our party and return to our winning ways. Ken Blackwell has the courage and experience to both lead and inspire us to achieve great things as a party.”
Mrs. Benkiser, a practicing attorney in Houston, is an evangelical Christian who, like Mr. Blackwell, opposes same-sex marriage and legalized abortion but, also like him, emphasizes “pro-growth” economic polices of low-taxes, small government and reduced regulations on business where possible.
Like Mr. Blackwell, she maintains the GOP doesn’t need to be less conservative to win future elections but needs to have its elected officials at all levels of government adhere to the principles of spending restraint, low taxes and respect for family values and personal honesty for which the GOP claims to stand.
“Our national party grew and was entrusted with leadership when it stayed true to its conservative principles,” she says in her letter to other members. “Focusing on fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense and traditional family values brought unprecedented growth to the party not that long ago. America was and still is a center-right country.”
As we noted before, Blackwell came to national prominence back in 2006 when he hooked up [PDF] with Rod Parsley and his Reformation Ohio movement:
With Blackwell’s gubernatorial campaign in full swing, the “Patriot Pastor” events have featured Johnson and Parsley highlighting Blackwell and extolling the candidate’s virtues. At a rally on the state Capitol steps, Parsley boomed over a Jumbotron screen, “Let the Reformation begin! Shout it like you’re going to carry the blood-stained banner of the cross of Christ the length and breadth of the Buckeye State!” Parsley then introduced Blackwell as “a man of great conviction, consistently standing for family, life, marriage, and faith throughout his public service.” At other events, Johnson followed Blackwell’s speech to pastors by presenting the man he called a “leader of leaders” with a “courageous leadership award” in the form of a large, gilded-eagle trophy—a ritual he repeated a number of times before different audiences of pastors.
Considering that it was just a few months ago that John McCain was forced to publicly repudiate the endorsements he had received from Parlsey and John Hagee, it seems rather odd that the next head of the RNC could be someone like Blackwell, who has had a long and very public alliance with Parsley:
Whereas McCain barely knew the men and courted them purely for political purposes, Blackwell was deeply involved in Parsley’s Patriot Pastors movement and regularly participated in their events during his run for Governor in 2006, so much so that the IRS was asked to investigate those churches involved for potential violations:
Parsley and Johnson hosted Blackwell as the featured guest speaker at numerous events, in which the candidate was honored with some award or endorsed explicitly from the stage. Parsley even flew Blackwell to one “Patriot Pastor” function on a church-owned plane. This campaign was only part of a broader agenda to promote Blackwell at bigger and bigger rallies featuring famous religious-right leaders, leading up to the primary election and beyond, and indeed including radio spots featuring Blackwell. The radio spots and the rallies with James Dobson never materialized, but far from being a “baseless allegation,” this plan was posted publicly on Johnson’s “Ohio Restoration Project” web site in 2005.
We understand that many in the Republican Party feel that their recent electoral losses stem from a failure to adequately adhere to the Religious Right’s agenda. If turning the RNC into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Religious Right is what they think is in the best interest of the party, then they couldn’t find a better chairman than Ken Blackwell.