During the past year, Michael McDonald has cemented himself as perhaps the most consequential Nevada Republican Party chairman since John Mason rode herd over the party faithful in the mid-1990s. This is no mean feat.
Under Mason’s leadership Republicans in Nevada became the majority party for the first time since Reconstruction, hosted the most financially successful Western States Republican Leadership Conference in the event’s history, and oversaw the election of a Republican governor in 1998 and a Republican U.S. senator in 2000.
Big shoes to fill. But here are three big developments under McDonald’s watch so far:
■ 1. Republican National Convention. The idea of Las Vegas hosting the GOP’s national convention grew out of the success of the 1995 WSRLC. It was a great idea that just never caught fire — until McDonald resurrected it and began promoting it at the RNC meeting in California last spring.
By August, McDonald’s spark of an idea began spreading like a brushfire. Since the Nevada GOP, by law, is unable to serve as the organizing committee, a separate nonprofit group was established and has since done a fantastic job of positioning Vegas as a finalist for hosting this extremely prestigious event.
■ 2. Primary endorsements. During his long tenure, even Chairman Mason was unable to persuade enough members of the Central Committee to abandon its position of neutrality in primaries and take a more active leadership role. But at the 2014 GOP Party convention under McDonald’s leadership, delegates ratified a first-ever primary endorsement policy and issued its first seals of approval.
And because of it, the GOP’s official top of the ticket this election cycle consists of a Hispanic, Gov. Brian Sandoval, and a woman, former state Sen. Sue Lowden. For a party that has faced challenges with both of those demographics, this is a hugely symbolic accomplishment that also brings some philosophical balance, with conservative Lowden pushing the ticket rightward from Sandoval’s middle-of-the-road record.
■ 3. Party platform. For many years now, many Republicans have complained that an over-emphasis on certain hot-button social issues has hurt the party with independent voters in general elections.
Whether that’s true or not will continue to be hotly debated for years to come. Either way, the Nevada GOP at its convention this year became, I believe, the first state party in the nation to adopt a platform that is silent on both the abortion and gay marriage issues. And while this decision could certainly be reversed in 2016, my guess is it won’t. And that a growing number of other party organizations will follow Nevada’s lead.
Maybe even in the national platform adopted at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Las Vegas, where the Nevada GOP’s endorsed candidate for president will be crowned.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.