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State Republican chairman defends party’s spending choices

Randy Pullen (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

After leading the state Republican Party to historic wins this year in the Legislature and statewide offices, GOP Chairman Randy Pullen suffered a stunning loss at the hands of his own peers.

The Arizona Capitol Times sat down with Pullen just two days before a District 11 GOP meeting, where he was rejected as a state committeeman. After the votes were tallied, Pullen was not nominated to be even one of the 135 state committeemen.

The Nov. 17 vote was significant because party bylaws and state statute require the party chairman to be a state committeeman.

In the interview that follows, Pullen stressed the need for Republicans to get down to the tough business of fixing Arizona’s finances. At the time, he also said he was still considering a run for party chairman, and even whether he would run for Republican National Committee chairman.

Is there a fun story from Election Night that you like to tell people?

I guess one of the highlights for me was David Schweikert, who hadn’t been to bed in two days, took the time to come down from his office in Scottsdale, all the way downtown in order to address the crowd, mainly because I asked him to do it. So I was very touched that he would. He was exhausted, and you could tell it just by looking in his face, that he hardly knew where he was, much less what to say.

That moment stands out, as well as Ben Quayle showing up with his entourage. You know, he’s new and he doesn’t know what’s going on. So I had to tell this brand new Congress member, “Stand right there. Don’t move.”

With the Republican supermajority in the Legislature, were voters giving a mandate to Republicans to push their agenda to the fullest, or are the Republicans the benefactors of a mid-term trend?

I don’t know what mandate means. I think the direction very clearly is, don’t raise taxes – cut.

There aren’t going to be any more tax increases. We had a sales tax increase earlier this year. I think that was the one pass that we got. They’re not going to give us any more of that, and quite frankly, I don’t think we need it.

So the rest of it’s going to come in cuts. It’s very clear that the voters might not like all of those cuts that are going to have to be made in order to balance the budget, but that’s essentially what’s left on the table for the Legislature to do.

There have been some donors and fundraising groups that have taken pains to go around the party this campaign season. Why do you think that is?

I think that’s more chatter than reality.

There’s been some issues, in terms of our congressional delegation, and what they’d like to see done, versus what the grassroots or the state-level people would like to see done. And I think that’s normal.

So, specifically, what’s your perspective on the House and Senate victory committees?

You know, it’s similar to structures that exist in other states and certainly they played a role in this state. But at the end of the day, they didn’t have that much in the way of resources.

They played some role, but for instance, we put eight or nine mail pieces in the mail in district 10. I seriously doubt if either one of those committees did a couple at the most.

So, relatively speaking, they weren’t that significant in the overall scheme of things.

Do you anticipate those types of committees will be around next election cycle, and would you be comfortable with that?

I don’t think there’s a need for them, quite frankly. But if they exist, they exist. We worked with them fairly well in this past election cycle.

I mean it was pretty clear that they played a role. It wasn’t that significant a role. They’ll probably still be around. I don’t know why they would go away.

These victory committees sprang from criticism about funding for legislative district races in 2008, is that how you see it?

No, not at all. I see it as, we had a president of the Senate and a speaker of the House who both opposed me in the election. They both supported my opponent, and I won. I think that was their reaction to my winning.

The facts are that the state party won elections in 2008 in the Legislature in a very, very, very tough election cycle. We increased the majority in both houses, and the money was spent where the money was spent.

I will put it this way: We had more of an impact in legislative races in 2008 than the party did in 2006. So I don’t know how you can say that we somehow improperly spent the money.

What about the people who complained that the party gave money to Joe Arpaio when he already had a fat wallet for that campaign cycle and almost no chance of losing, at the expense of legislative candidates?

There’s absolutely no truth to that. Absolutely not. That’s from people who either don’t know, or think it’s to their benefit to say that.

The facts are that, at the end of the day, we actually raise money off the Joe Arpaio ads. We made money off of those ads, quite frankly.

We didn’t spend that much. We spent about $47,000, and that got picked up by the media and the media spun it. OK. So, between the county attorney’s race and the Arpaio race, we spent about $100,000, but I raised like $122,000 off of that. So it basically funded other elections.

But it doesn’t really matter, because the money that the party raised in 2008 for legislative races got spent on legislative races. We won races in LD26, we won races in LD12, we won races in LD10, we won a race in LD25, LD24. I mean, we won some races we weren’t supposed to win.

Now there were some races where we didn’t spend money, because I didn’t think we needed to spend money there.

So there’s no truth to that. The money was all spent properly. I don’t know what else to tell you. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Do you plan to run for chairman of the state party again?

That remains to be seen. I haven’t made that decision yet. I’m still exploring it.

So are you meeting with potential replacements?

I’m talking to a number of people. Sure. You know, it’ll all be determined pretty quickly.

We have a nominating committee and names have to be turned in to the nominating committee no later than Dec. 8. So there’s about three more weeks here to go.

Do you plan to run for RNC chairman?

I might. I haven’t decided on that yet either.

Nothing else on that?

No.

So for a Republican voter out there who’s wondering where they can expect to see Randy Pullen a year from now, what do you say to them?

It’s a good question. I’ll let you know when I know the answer.

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