When Lloyd Smith was a kid, high tech communication meant his party line was shared with telephones in only three other homes instead of 12. Given that background, fellow Republicans might think it odd to hear his advice, Smith said Saturday at the annual Lincoln Days celebration.
“We’re going to have to move the Republican Party in a new direction through the Internet — through Twitter and Facebook,” he told nearly 60 local Republicans in the Bonne Terre Knights of Columbus Hall. We have got to reach out to the young people. We need all of you to be involved.”
Speakers focused on ways to mobilize Republicans, especially for the 2010 election.
“In 2010, there will be 38 open Republican seats and eight open Senate seats,” said Smith, who is executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. “We also face the question of who will replace Kit Bond. With McCaskill and Carnahan in the Senate, it could take the country even further to the left.”
The annual event is sponsored by the St. Francois County Republican Central Committee. Following dinner and a silent auction, Master of Ceremonies Dale Wright introduced Bobby Ridings of the Mineral Area Young Republicans. Ridings said the group was started to help young people promoted positive change.
“Youth were lacking in this Presidential campaign,” he said. “The seeds of Republican growth must flourish through young blood in the party.”
Tom Schulte of U.S. Sen. Kit Bond’s office and Josh Haynes of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson’s office both discussed increases in the number of Republicans in public office in the Cape Girardeau area compared to several years ago. Schulte also told the audience,
“Kit Bond is going to retire, but Kit Bond is going to continue to be politically active in your values.”
St. Francois County Commissioner Bret Burgess, also a member of the Young Republicans, said he thinks Republicans have lost their way.
“I hope we have more people here next year,” he said. “There are a lot of folks out there who share our values.”
State Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said he has never been more concerned about the country and the direction in which it is headed, adding that Republicans are partly to blame. He also criticized Obama’s stimulus bill and Congress.
“His first bill was 1,100 pages and not a single member of Congress read the whole bill,” Tilley said. “He added 20 percent to the national debt. This is not change we can believe in.
The strongest criticism came from State Sen. Kevin Engler, who said Republicans risk going “off the deep end” when they take extremely conservative positions and fail to work together.
“We have four ‘pro-life’ groups who fight so much among each other, they’ve lost credibility,” he said. “When we say we need guns in colleges, we lose half the people. We have to have rational approaches.”
Engler said he believes marriage is a sacrament, and he is opposed to same-sex marriages. But the stance Republicans take leads others to see them as “gay bashers,” Engler contended. He was dismayed recently when a constituent who is homosexual, was frightened to come into Engler’s office to discuss his concerns about issues.
“Do you know that someone can be fired in Missouri just for being gay?” Engler asked the crowd. “It’s wrong. Would Jesus say ‘Fire him because he’s gay?’ My Jesus would not.
“We need to be more loving.”
Engler criticized the idea that people who pay their mortgages are expected to bail out those who bought more house than they could afford. He asked the crowd, if someone has an expensive car, should they have to loan it three days a week to someone who has a cheap car? Should students who make A’s have to give some of them to students who do not do their work?
“We were founded on opportunity,” he said. “What we do with it is what separates us.”
Engler criticized Sec. of State Robin Carnahan’s insistence that the “Blue Book” continue to be printed. Engler said it is a waste of a half-million dollars to print the official state manual when all the information is available on the Internet.
“Don’t ask me for one, because I’m not taking mine,” he said. “It’s a waste of money.”
Engler ended on a lighter note, saying that he and Tilley will continue to be strong forces in Jefferson City.
“If things go well, I’ll be President Pro Tem of the Senate and Steve will be Speaker of the House. Then we will move the capital to Farmington,” he joked.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.