Can’t wait to learn more of the backstory on this one: Matt Strawn announced this morning that he is resigning as the Republican Party of Iowa’s state chairman. In a videotaped statement, Strawn cited competing business, personal, and political interests. He did not refer to the controversy over his attempt to declare the Iowa caucuses a tie with no clear winner. Supporters of Rick Santorum were outraged when Strawn said publicly that he could not speculate about the vote totals from eight precincts missing paperwork. The Iowa Republican blog publisher Craig Robinson, a former senior Iowa GOP official, repeatedly called for Strawn to step down.
I’ve posted Strawn’s video after the jump, with a partial transcript and an Iowa GOP press release. I’ll update with political reaction as it comes in today.
The Iowa Republican State Central Committee first elected Strawn as chair in January 2009. He beat several political insiders in that contest. Strawn is generally perceived to have improved the party’s organization and coordination. He had no opposition when chosen for another two-year term in January 2011.
Excerpt (my transcript):
It is only because the Iowa GOP has returned as a strong and relevant voice in Iowa politics that I have the opportunity to evaluate all the competing priorities in my personal, business, and political life. After three-plus years of being a constant presence at your chili suppers, your central committee meetings, and your Reagan dinners, the time has come for me to give those other priorities in my life the attention they deserve. So, I will soon be ending my service as your chairman.
Excerpt from Iowa GOP press release, January 31:
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn today announced he will be stepping down as the state’s top Iowa GOP party official, effective Friday, February 10. Strawn has served as chairman of the Iowa GOP since January 2009. The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee will be charged with setting the date to elect Strawn’s successor.
Strawn shared his announcement with Iowa Republicans in the following video message: [same video I posted above]
The prepared text of Strawn’s message to Iowa Republicans follows below:
January 31, 2012
Dear Iowa Republican:
In December 2008, when I campaigned to serve as your Chairman, my top goal was to make the Iowa GOP a relevant force again in Iowa politics by ushering in an era where the Republican Party returned to winning elections without betraying our conservative principles.
Over the past three plus years, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. We witnessed sweeping Republican electoral victories at all levels. We saw an explosion in new Republican voters with an unprecedented 34 consecutive months of Iowa GOP voter registration gains. We kept the Iowa Caucuses First-in-the-Nation. We broke fundraising records, hosted the largest Republican presidential caucus in history, and for the first-time ever, the Iowa GOP co-hosted three nationally televised presidential debates that were watched by millions. Most importantly, Iowa Republicans accomplished all this and more working together as a team.
Simply put, your Iowa GOP is better off than it was four years ago thanks to outstanding team work. Your Iowa GOP is a relevant force again in Iowa politics. Your Iowa GOP is winning elections with leaders who are advancing our principled agenda. Your Iowa GOP is in a position to re-elect our members of Congress, win an Iowa Senate majority, and make Iowa’s six electoral votes the national battleground in the 2012 presidential campaign.
While the election wins, fundraising successes and media appearances are the aspects of being Chairman that gain the most attention, the most rewarding aspect of my service was the opportunity to travel our state and get to know the people of Iowa. The strength of the rebuilt Iowa GOP rests in the hands of the thousands of committed volunteer activists who give their time, treasure and talents to make Iowa a better place by working to elect public servants who share our values and principles.
The Iowa GOP designs its position of Chairman to be volunteer in nature. But over the past three years I have treated the privilege of serving as your Chairman as a full-time calling. There’s no question the job of rebuilding our party was a huge one, and one to which I committed every minute that was necessary to succeed.
It is only because the Iowa GOP has returned as a strong and relevant voice in Iowa politics that I am now able to evaluate all the competing priorities in my personal, business and political life. The party is strong and has the resources in place for victory in November. Now is the time to transition to new leadership.
Effective February 10, I will be ending my service as your Chairman. For this fifth generation Iowan and Benton County farm kid, serving as your Chairman has been an honor, a privilege and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Matthew N. Strawn
(Note: The following appeared as an attachment to Strawn’s January 31 letter to Iowa Republicans)
Following very challenging back-to-back election cycles in 2006 and 2008, the Republican Party of Iowa has emerged since 2009 as a force in Iowa politics. The accomplishments of the past three plus years include:
Retention of all Republican incumbents to U.S. Senate, congressional, statewide and legislative offices during the 2010 midterm elections
Won the Office of the Governor for the first time in twelve years
Won the Office of Secretary of State for the first time in twelve years
Won an Iowa House GOP majority with a net-gain of sixteen Republican seats
Won a net-gain of six Republican seats in the Iowa Senate
Dominated county-level races by winning a net-gain of over 100 Republican-held county offices
The Iowa GOP is entirely debt-free. (Paid off all debt obligations inherited at start of term)
The Iowa GOP outraised the Iowa Democratic Party in 2011 (source FEC filings)
The Iowa GOP currently has more cash-on-hand than the Iowa Democratic Party (source FEC filings)
During the 2010 election cycle, Iowa GOP increased major donor revenue by 29% compared to most recent prior election cycles
Major physical renovations and improvements to the Iowa GOP HQ building in Des Moines
Maintained Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status through passage of new RNC rules in August 2010
Largest turnout in the history of the Iowa GOP precinct caucuses in January 2012
Second largest turnout in the history of the Iowa GOP Straw Poll in August 2011
Co-hosted three nationally-televised GOP presidential debates for the first time in the history of the Iowa GOP, including the first-ever prime-time, nationally-televised presidential debate from Northwest Iowa.
Voter Registration Gains: The Iowa GOP has made remarkable gains in voter registration since January 2009.
December 2011 marked 34 consecutive months that the Iowa GOP outpaced the Iowa Democratic Party in voter registration gains.
In January 2009, Iowa Democrats held a voter registration edge of 115,917 over Iowa Republicans. Today, that edge has been cut by over two-thirds and stands at less than 30,000, which does not yet include the number of new Republican registrants from the January 3 Iowa Caucuses
During the 2010 cycle, only the Iowa GOP saw an increase in voter registration and Iowans registered with either Democrat or No Party affiliation declined
Early Voting: Dramatically improved the Iowa GOP’s performance on absentee and early voting results during the 2010 midterm election cycle.
83 percent increase in Iowa GOP absentee/early vote performance compared to 2006 midterms
95 percent Iowa GOP absentee return-rate a four percent increase compared to 2006 midterms
Iowa GOP petitioned for more satellite vote locations statewide than Iowa Democrats, dramatically increasing Republican share of vote
Statewide Victory Voter Program: The Iowa GOP’s I-WIN 2010 voter program was the most aggressive, volunteer-based, midterm voter contact program ever launched by the Republican Party of Iowa.
Opening of Statewide Offices by Spring 2010: The Iowa GOP honored its pledge to open and staff ten statewide victory offices by June 2010
Record-breaking volunteer contacts:Volunteers made over 1.5 million volunteer voter contacts
Full-ticket support:For the first-time ever, the statewide Iowa GOP voter program was made available to all GOP candidates from Governor to county-level offices
Paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa and Not Authorized by Any Candidate or Candidate’s Committee
UPDATE: Here is the official statement from Governor Terry Branstad:
“I want to thank Matt Strawn for his three years of leadership at the Republican Party of Iowa. Matt took over at a time when the party was in desperate shape, and rebuilt it precinct-by-precinct, putting it in the strongest position in years. Under Matt Strawn’s leadership, we defeated an incumbent governor for the first time since 1962, gained control of the Iowa House with a 60-seat majority, won six seats in the Iowa Senate, restored a strong financial standing and have surged in Republican registration. Matt’s leadership will be missed, but I am confident a smooth transition will take place at the Republican Party of Iowa and we will continue our party’s successes this November.”
The Des Moines Register reported this morning,
Last week, Strawn met with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s chief of staff, Jeff Boeyink, who said he and the governor would support him whether he stayed or left.
“We want Matt to be successful in whatever he does,” Boeyink, who Strawn tapped in 2009 as the party’s executive director, told the Register this morning. “Matt Strawn has done a tremendous job with the party and the governor had hoped that he would continue to serve.”
During Branstad’s weekly news conference a week ago, when asked about the calls for Strawn’s resignation, the governor said the GOP chief has done a “great job” under “difficult circumstances.” […]
Senate Minority Leader Jerry Behn, R-Boone, in a statement this morning thanked Strawn for his “tireless dedication to the cause of promoting our great party, its values, principles and candidates.”
Strawn hired Boeyink as Iowa GOP executive director in 2009. Boeyink left that position in the fall of 2009 to manage Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign.
Craig Robinson views Strawn’s resignation as a “necessary first step” for Iowa Republicans to “focus on rebuilding the credibility of the caucus process.”
Despite all of the positive things that he has accomplished as chairman, Strawn failed at the most critical task he had to oversee – protecting and maintaining Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucus status.
Strawn’s unwillingness to stand behind the certified caucus results is what created the cloud of suspicion over the caucus process. It was his exclusive interview with the Des Moines Register that caused the paper’s headline to read, “2012 GOP caucus count unresolved.” Strawn also was unwilling to declare a winner after the vote had been certified in an interview on Fox News. Strawn half-heartedly tried to backtrack on WHO Radio, admitting that the Fox News debacle was the worst interview of his life, but his unwillingness to declare Santorum the official winner then continued in the following days in various other interviews.
Seeing the confusion that Strawn’s interviews created, Iowa GOP staff and members of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee asked Strawn to release a statement that clearly stated that Santorum had won the Iowa Caucuses. Strawn refused. Strawn was forced to issue a statement after five State Central Committee members requested a meeting to discuss the matter.
If the only thing that Strawn was guilty of was a difficulty in communicating the result of the certified vote, it would be one thing, but Strawn went out of his way to undermine the validity of caucuses themselves. Instead of talking about the 1766 precincts that were certified, he talked about the eight that were not. In doing so, Strawn not only undermined the final results of the caucuses, but he also failed to strand behind the hundreds of volunteers and activists that help conduct the caucuses.
LATE UPDATE: Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen released the following statement on Strawn’s departure.
“I want to thank Chairman Strawn for his work on behalf of Iowa Republicans. His dedication to advancing conservative principles is to be commended.
“Iowa Republicans are energized and committed to expanding our House Majority and electing conservatives who work to get the economy moving forward, put Iowans back to work and give taxpayers a seat at the table.”