Despite two tense meetings last week, Greene County Republican (GCRC) Chairman Steve Kruskamp remains positive about the future of the unit this week.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Kruskamp said Thursday. “We can dwell on the past or we can look forward, grow the party, make sure it’s fully inclusive of all—in terms of opinion and otherwise—and really turn this back into what it was in its heyday. Before I ran (for chair), I spoke to a lot of members who had been a part of this unit for a very long time, and the passion that they had for it was palpable.”
Even after the two meetings last week—one called for June 25 by Kruskamp and one called for June 26 by six members of the GCRC—questions remained about membership and the validity of the June 26 meeting.
Every two years at a mass meeting, the organization is dissolved and members must re-file. This year’s mass meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 and the state party agreed all who had pre-filed by March 2 would be considered members in good standing. However, the membership application does not preclude people from pre-filing up to the date of the mass meeting and several had turned in applications to the chairman directly by the March 16 date, Kruskamp said.
He said he forwarded an updated roster to the recording secretary, Aaron Moyer, prior to the June 24 meeting. During the June 25 meeting, Moyer said he had not received it. That roster listed 26 members, not the 12 that was believed to be pre-filed. After a challenge from Matt Hardin asking Kruskamp to answer how the list was generated was denied by the membership, the members voted in an additional 10 members, bringing the total number to 36. That meant that six people were not enough to call a meeting; and Kruskamp noted the June 26 meeting would be invalid.
Kruskamp said this week that he isn’t that surprised there has been resistance.
“I tried to call the (individuals) on the call for the illegitimate meeting and I got voice mail,” he said. “In my experience in leadership for the 20 years that I’ve been in the corporate world … local government or even small organizations like (Home Owner’s Associations), I think any time you have any sort of change there’s always going to be a group of people who are going to be, you know, pushing back to that change. Typically, the answer to that is just to continue to execute on the plan that you have in front of you; to rebuild the unit, to bring new membership in, to breathe life into the old tradition.”
More than 20 people gathered at the June 26 meeting at Lydia Lodge, but after Kruskamp refused to lead the event because it was not a sanctioned meeting, it was decided to recess that meeting for two weeks. Participants remained for more than an hour to discuss differences of opinion and policy within the local committee.
Ed Yensho, previous chairman of the GCRC, outlined reasons an appeal will be generated to the committee and up through party channels if necessary, to nullify the Thursday membership vote. Kruskamp said the appeal will need to come to the committee itself first but as of July 2, an appeal had not been received. The committee would then vote on the appeal after Kruskamp had a chance to respond, according to bylaws. Yensho said if the membership denies the appeal, he would move it up to the 5th District and the state, if necessary.
Drake Herring spoke to Kruskamp during the June 26 meeting, saying he felt that he and others had been prevented from joining the unit. He also referenced a screenshot of a conversation where Kruskamp said he did not want to be associated with those who “lack integrity and character.”
Kruskamp said he was not referring to Herring and does not believe that of him.
“It truly is just a case of misinformation. The statement that I made was focusing on the individuals who had signed for that illegal call (for a meeting),” Kruskamp said. “Not one of those individuals had reached out to me to engage me on, ‘Hey, we want to have a (meeting).’ And these are also individuals, I think, who are averse to change. And so it breaks my heart because here's a person who thought that I was talking about him and I wasn't. Quite frankly, if I was in his shoes and I didn't know what the context was, I'd be upset too. I understand why he was upset.”
Kruskamp said he wants to have a face-to-face conversation with Herring to offer the full story of what happened. He also said he’s willing to have a conversation with the unit if they want it to show that he has been following bylaws to the letter.
“While I’m chairman, I serve the unit,” he said. “I’ve done something that you know, perhaps some other chairs wouldn't which is remaining neutral in terms of when we're talking about nominees. I know that I'm seen as representing the GCRC. I want to respect that I want to respect the people who are members who have put that trust in me; the gravity of this role is not lost on me and never has been. My goal is to meet the expectations and surpass the expectations of those that helped get me into the seat.”
While growing the GCRC membership is an important goal for Kruskamp, as is advocating for the Republican ticket this November, Kruskamp said he also wants to see the GCRC become a strong force in the community. He said he doesn’t want a homogenous group at all.
“I think that’s unhealthy,” he said. “Having an echo chamber does not strengthen the unit. This is a changing landscape and we’re in unprecedented times and I think if you surround yourself with people who are perfectly aligned with your viewpoints, you may miss a lot of the bigger picture. And missing that bigger picture could really put you at a disadvantage.”
He said the way to strengthen the party is to bring in diversity of opinion where people can engage each other respectfully, without fear of being bullied.
“I ran on diversity of opinion, and I, through conversations with members, knew that a fracture was already there for the GCRC,” Kruskamp said. “This is part of the reason why I'm putting so much emphasis on this because this is the way that we can unite. When it turns bad is when you shut people out who have a difference of opinion.”
The Kruskamps are expecting their second child this weekend and he said he’d like to get to the point where he can focus on his growing family.
“That’s been the toughest part of this, being a father and having a wife who’s expecting any moment and finding my evenings completely filled with conversations with others, planning, 5th District stuff and local unit stuff. It’s been difficult, but I’m confident that finding a nice balance going forward is easily attainable.”
People can subscribe to a GCRC newsletter via the website, as well as get information about upcoming meetings and more, at www.gcrcgop.com. Kruskamp said he’s also available to the committee members via email at email@example.com.
“I’m happy to have any conversation that anybody wants,” he said.
Anyone who needs Bob Good, Donald Trump or Daniel Gade candidate yard signs for the November election can reach out to him, too.
The recessed June 26 gathering is scheduled to reconvene at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 10 at Lydia Lodge and is open to all.