Reince Priebus is the grassroots choice for chairman

Mark Block Contributor
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In the race for chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus is the best man for the job. I speak as someone who has observed his work and strong record of success throughout his entire tenure as state party chair.

Some folks with other dogs in this fight have baselessly attacked his record and good character, questioning his ideological commitment and his understanding of the role of grassroots activism. Facts are facts, and as his record shows, these attacks are contrary to the basic reality of what has occurred in Wisconsin.

From 2005 to 2010, I ran the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Quite simply, what my organization was able to accomplish alongside key allies in the Tea Party would not have been possible without Priebus’s understanding and support for grassroots organizing and core conservative principles.

When our coalition was working to organize the first major Tea Party rally in Madison, Wisconsin (which, when all was said and done, was one of the two or three largest events in the country on April 15, 2009 — an astonishing achievement in a deep blue city in a then purplish-to-blue state), we lacked critical funding and logistical support. Fortunately for us, Priebus and the state party reached out, generously offering to join our effort without hesitation. He did this at a time when other Republican officials were running as far and as fast as they could from the Tea Party label.

Under Priebus, the Wisconsin GOP provided bus transportation and staff support for the movement of an enormous number of Tea Party activists from the outskirts of Madison to the rally site on the steps of the State Capitol, where over 8,000 people gathered to tell our elected officials: “Enough is enough!” It was the largest rally ever in Madison without the benefit of a presidential candidate — until we held a rally about twice the size on Tax Day 2010.

That’s just one example of the attitude Priebus had as party chairman — he cared more about winning than getting credit, and he consistently supported the grassroots efforts of conservatives outside of the Republican Party. He did this knowing that we had nothing to offer in return, as our tax status strictly prohibits us from coordinating with or supporting a political party. Priebus understood that in order to succeed in his role, we had to succeed in ours. That’s precisely the attitude the next national party chairman needs to successfully partner with the most powerful force in American politics: the Tea Party.

With Priebus as an ally, conservative grassroots and Tea Party activism have thrived in Wisconsin. And the results have been astonishing — and a model for the country. When Priebus was elected state party chairman, Democrats controlled the governor’s office, state senate, state assembly, five U.S. House seats and both U.S. Senate seats. He inherited an organization that was dysfunctional and deeply in debt. Republicans now control the governor’s office, the state senate, the state assembly, five seats in the U.S. House and one U.S. Senate seat. (Wisconsin’s other Senate seat will be very much in play in 2012.)

This represents the first time since 1966 that Republicans gained two U.S. House seats in Wisconsin. The astonishing fourteen-seat pickup in the state assembly is the biggest since 1938, and the four state senate seats gained are the most since 1980. Even more important, nearly every candidate supported by the state party was a genuine conservative, with proven free-market beliefs.

On Friday, the Republican National Committee will vote on who will lead the national Republican Party into the vital 2012 cycle. Committee members need to pick the candidate who has a proven understanding of, appreciation for, and working relationship with surging grassroots conservative activists. They need to pick the candidate whose state just had the most dramatic blue-to-red transformation in the country. They need to pick Reince Priebus.

Mr. Block was the Wisconsin state director for Americans for Prosperity from 2005 to 2010. This represents his personal opinion and not that of any affiliated organizations.