Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney, with a cardboard cut-out of Sarah Palin looking over his shoulder, revealed his state-wide candidate recruitment strategy for 2010 to the Williamson County's GOP Women's Club meeting at the Old Natchez Country Club.
Fresh on the chairman's mind was Shelbyville Republican Pat Marsh's swearing in as the newest House member this week. Seating Marsh gave the GOP a two-vote majority in the House.
"For a special election, there was an overwhelming number of people who voted in the Republican primary," Devaney said. Those Republican primary voters included Democrats (20 percent) and independents (30 percent) according post-election analysis. "There was not ulterior motive in the reason they voted in the Republican Primary," Devaney offered in explanation "They were fed up with what they were seeing in the Democrat (sic) Party."
With an eye toward 2010 elections, Devany said, "As chairman I'm going to be recruiting (candidates who) stand by those core principles (of) limited government, traditional values, promoting the free enterprise system," Devaney said. "That's what I'm going to be promoting." The party in power following the 2010 elections will draw legislative and congressional district lines to benefit their party.
Casey Preston asked Devaney if Tennessee would be bound by statements from national GOP Chairman Michael Steele that an pro-abortion candidates are "absolutely" welcomed by the GOP. Devaney said he, like Steele, would not deny state party membership to pro-choice Republicans. He noted, however, that Republican candidates really need to be pro-life to get elected in Tennessee.
"I am not going to say that if you are pro-choice you are not welcomed in the Republican Party," Devaney told Preston. "However, I think to get elected in Tennessee you need to be pro-life, quite frankly, and those are the kind of candidates that we are going to be looking for."
Recalling the grand old man of the GOP, Devaney said, "Ronald Reagan said if we agree on 80 percent of the issues then, we should work together and come together as a party, That's what I'm going to be looking for; looking for some common ground."
More to the point, "Are we going to exclude people who are pro-choice?" he said. "No. If they agree on the others about limited government, about promoting free enterprise, I want them in the Party quite frankly."