Matthew R. Newman: What made you decide to run for Maryland Republican Party Chairman?
Mike P. Estève: Over the last three weeks, I was working on putting a slate together for MD GOP leadership and quickly observed that many of the viable chairman candidates were uncomfortable associating themselves with the state party in such an official capacity. It was evident that most people recognized that, with the imminent redistricting, things are only going to get harder before they get better – no one wants to be in charge during such a time. At this point, I recognized the need for an infusion of energy and enthusiasm – we need Marylanders focusing on this race as the MD GOP Chairman will hold the greatest responsibility for Republicans’ fate in Maryland over the next four years. One thing is for certain: the window of opportunity for Maryland Republicans to hope for future victories is closing quickly. The next Chair will determine the fate of the Party. As such, I consulted with numerous friends and supporters who expressed great enthusiasm for a younger, energized candidacy, and announced last Thursday.
MRN: How do you feel that the State Party performed during the 2010 election cycle?
MPE: The Party line is that we picked up forty seats when counting the localities and counties. In my book, that’s window-dressing on a house that’s missing a roof. We lost the governor’s race by fourteen points, as well as two senate seats, including Alex Mooney’s which was a safe GOP seat. I congratulate the winners and acknowledge the successes, but, overall, the election was an embarrassment.
MRN: How do you feel your experiences in the Maryland Federation of College Republicans helps qualify you for the role of State Party Chairman?
MPE: Before my involvement in the MFCR last year, we had five active chapters. Since then, we have doubled that number and increased statewide membership to well over a thousand students. Over the last seven months, we had College Republicans active in campaigns at every level of government across the state contributing in every capacity from literature droppers and receptionists to campaign managers and county coordinators. I was very proud of our chapter chairs who deserve the credit for our tremendous growth and involvement in the election. That is the type of energy, growth and management that we need for a turnaround of the MD GOP.
MRN: What are your thoughts on outgoing Chair Audrey Scott?
MPE: I have nothing but sincere respect and admiration for the Chairman. She came into a mess of a Party that was deeply in debt and highly factionalized. She united the Party, dug us out of debt, established a fulltime fundraising and political staff, raised seven victory centers statewide, and left us in the black when it was all said and done. As far as I’m concerned, she met all of her campaign promises and did a phenomenal job. She was just the right Chair at the right time. Now that chapter has come to a close and the Party has different needs. I believe the Chairman recognizes this, which is why she is not pursuing reelection.
MRN: What do you feel is the most important role of the GOP State Central Committee?
MPE: Grow the Party. We cannot win elections statewide if we don’t experiment and try new ways to share our message and build as an organization. Every county is different, but regardless of whether a particular county’s most active Republican body is its Central Committee or Republican Club(s), we need to build the Party from the ground up. CCs and RCs need to be out every weekend door-knocking at consistent GOP voters’ doors, getting them activated. In the last election cycle, I saw a number of brand new activists, literally recruited by a door-knocker to attend a club meeting, become a Central Committee member within six months. We must be growing the Party at all times. Every new member of a Club and every vacancy filled in a Central Committee is another warm body making phone calls or door-knocking in two to four years.
MRN: What would be your top priority if selected as the next Chair of the State Central Committee?
MPE: Fundraise. Fundraise. Fundraise.
MRN: As a 20 year old Republican, what do you feel that the party can do to reach out to younger voters?
MPE: Make them feel welcomed and useful. Our young members are often the most thoughtful, hardworking, and creative. We have to understand that not all young people are the same. Some will sit on a couch their whole youth and play videogames. Others will run for State Party Chairman. We need to recognize that those who do want to get involved are the ones who will work the hardest. The advantage to being young is that you are often too little worn, bitter, and disgruntled, to recognize the impossibility of the task ahead. The disadvantage the Democrats in Maryland have is that their slow attrition rate makes Party promotion (and even the need) for youth activists almost negligible. For the Republicans, this is hardly the case. We must capitalize on our smaller size and more abundant opportunities to involve and engage the youth.
MRN: What is your opinion on Rule 11 and its role in the 2010 election cycle?
MPE: I would allow for a Rule 11 only if extreme circumstances called for it, and only if the State Central Committee voted in majority approval. The problem with Rule 11 in 2010 was that the state leadership signed onto it prior to consulting with the State Central Committee, which should never have occurred. central committee had no say in the matter, which should never occur.
MRN: What do you think the Republican Party should do to help make inroads / grow the party in traditionally heavily Democratic areas like Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Baltimore City?
MPE: Our major defeats in PG, Montgomery, and Baltimore City showed us two things. First, we know that predominantly minority counties will not cross party lines unless they are strongly motivated to do so. Second, we know that running a minority candidate of our own isn’t the right type of motivation (based on the returns we saw from Michael Steele’s 2006 race) – they need a Democrat to be persuaded. If we are serious about making inroads in these counties, we would have to have a split-ticket gubernatorial slate, preferably with at least one minority candidate, and a very popular Democrat from one of those regions – fortunately, there are a number of tolerable Democrats who could be suitable for such a ticket. As MD GOP Chair, however, I would have to say it would be next to impossible to convince a number of Maryland conservatives of the merits of such a ticket.
MRN: As someone relatively new to the political scene, how do you plan to raise the funds necessary to keep the party operating?
MPE: Three things on fundraising: 1. Over the last year, the State Party has rightly expanded and shallowed their donor base. In other words, rather than being dependant on fifty donors for ten-thousand dollar donations, we’re moving in the direction of receiving fifty dollar donations from ten-thousand donors. This creates a much more stable and reliable donor base and that is precisely the direction in which I want to take our State Party – more in the direction of grassroots fundraising.
2. It is not unhistorical that the State Party appoints fundraising directors to reach out to a broader donor base. I have spoken with numerous such potential fundraising directors over the last two weeks, and it is clear that we have the opportunity to tap into previously uninterested donor sources given our traditional flagship candidate is no longer in the limelight. Potential supporters, particularly wealthier gun owners, who stand to lose many of their rights under another four years of the O’Malley regime, and worse yet, under an additional eight years of an O’Malley successor, are far more willing to support the Party knowing what they stand to preserve. This is the type of outreach we must conduct.
3. For every successful business, institution, and campaign in the world, there are numerous failed ones. Just in the realm of politics, candidates run and parties form with little chance of success, yet manage to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it comes to major donors, individuals don’t contribute their money strictly on the mathematical basis of seeing a return in dividends, but because they believe in the cause. What I offer that no other candidate offers is a fundamental change in belief that this State Party can be successful and can close the chapter of the last ten years. We can rebuild and reform to be more competitive in this state, and stand on the values of our Party. What I offer is faith in the organization and a clear vision forward – that’s what donors want when considering contributing to the cause: vision, direction, and faith.
MRN: In closing, what is one thing you want to ensure that Central Committee members and general party members know about you and your campaign?
MPE: I am not running to make a point or to divide the Party. If we could measure the Maryland Republican Party’s historical cut-throat, backstabbing in blood, this state would be scarlet red from end to end. I am running because I believe in the Party and I believe in the cause of Republican success in Maryland. I may very well be the only one young enough to remain optimistic about our chances. That being said, I have spoken with Mary Kane, and she and I have agreed that Party unity is crucial as we move forward, and, regardless of who wins, we would work together as a Party to restore balance and accountability to Maryland government.
I thank Mr. Estève for his willingness to participate and look forward to hearing what the other potential candidates have to say on the issues.