CCR Interviews Part I: Thrive CCR
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor, and Deborah Porter, Foreign Policy Contributor
Over the course of the last few months, The Millennial Review has been documenting the ongoing race for control of the California College Republicans (CCR). The election will take place on the third and final day of the CCR statewide convention, the weekend of April 28th - 30th. With the race winding down to a close in less than a week, there is one final push by both slates - Thrive CCR and Rebuild CCR - to get their respective names out there via media attention, among other such tactics. There have been endorsement switches, media blackouts, and allegations of bribery and voter suppression, all while the outsider slate, Rebuild, tries to mount a challenge to the slate of incumbents, Thrive. Rebuild has accused Thrive of being like establishment politicians, hand-picking their own successors, promoting themselves and their friends, and answering to the party leaders while ignoring the wills of the average College Republican. Conversely, Thrive has accused Rebuild of being inexperienced outsiders, more focused on ego and media attention than the cause, and being dangerously radical and associated with such factions as the alt-right. All of this will come to an end on April 30th, the day of the actual election for the entirety of the statewide board.
As such, two contributors at The Millennial Review - Foreign Policy Contributor Deborah Porter, and Politics Contributor Eric Lendrum - have managed to arrange interviews with representatives of both slates: Deborah interviewed Thrive’s candidate for statewide chair, Leesa Danzek, while Eric got an interview from Rebuild’s chair candidate, Ariana Rowlands, but a handful of answers from other Rebuild candidates as well. The full transcripts of both interviews will be published as articles here on The Millennial Review. Both interviews were conducted by sending the questions to the respective recipients via email, who then sent their answers back.
1) Why has your slate not responded to media inquiries? Why the change of heart now?
(Chair Candidate) Leesa Danzek: We are open to all media inquiries that are sent in a reasonable amount of time beforehand. (i.e. not asking for comment via Facebook message within minutes before an article is scheduled to be published).
2) What do you consider more important; electing Republicans to office in California, or spreading conservatism in college campuses?
Leesa: The California College Republicans are the largest and most active GOP grassroots organization in California because we are well-rounded, not in spite of it. Everything we do, starting each school year from our annual training at the Reagan Library, centers on growing the Republican Party on campus in diverse ways. For decades we have understood that different students join College Republicans for different reasons, and that as leaders it’s our goal to find unique ways to reach every existing and potential College Republican in the state. We are proud to be the only campus conservative group that encourages year-round activism, fosters community through regular social events, offers California-centered training, AND elects more Republicans than any other volunteer organization in the state.
Republicans can only be successful when we comprehensively engage with our campuses and communities. Activism is one of the absolute best ways to engage students that may not otherwise know about CRs, or may not have considered the Republican point of view before. More so than any campaign event, activism allows CRs to bring the conversation directly to their fellow students. Campaigning then helps us translate the Republican conversation to Republican representation in our communities. If we don’t put our precinct walking shoes where our mouth is, we can never win in the long run.
It has never been about choosing between one of the other. Alleging that either activism or campaigning is more important than the other, is not only an unfortunate misunderstanding of the fundamental purpose of the California College Republicans, but that kind of thinking can easily and unnecessarily pit College Republicans against each other based on their personal interests.
3) Why have you refused to debate Ariana?
Leesa: Open, civil discussion is critical to the success of any organization. It’s my goal to encourage an environment in CCR where all CRs feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas openly. But before we do that, it’s important that we have an accurate understanding of the fundamental purpose of the California College Republicans. As a chartered organization with the California Republican Party, we abide by the platform set forth by the CRP. Thus, CCR does not create it’s own political policy or platform. Furthermore, it is not the job of the State Chair to use his or her own opinions as the voice that represents CRs—rather, it is his or her responsibility to communicate the goals of the Republican Party through encouraging activism and providing opportunities to elect Republicans.
4) Give me your top reason(s) why there is such a divide/controversy between the slates.
Leesa: After such a divisive election cycle for Republicans across the board in 2016, it was my aim to maintain CCR’s decade-long unity through a positive, goal-oriented campaign. When I was first considering to run for CCR State Chair, I enjoyed the countless conversations I had with CR leaders across the state, hearing the issues that matter most to them. Unity and cohesion rose to the top of the priority list for CRs in every corner of California. It is deeply disheartening to now see fellow College Republicans attack one another, especially on such public social media forums. Although a contested election can be exciting, what’s most important is that we remember that at the end of the day, we are all Republicans on the same team. We are all College Republicans fighting the same fight against the oppressive Left in our classrooms. We are all on the frontlines of the battle for free speech on our campuses. We are all working to promote the message of freedom and prosperity to our fellow students. Above any fray, we must remember that it has never been about who is the one person leading CCR, but rather each of the existing College Republicans working daily to bring every potential CR into the fold of the Republican Party.
5) How does Thrive feel about Rebuild's involvement/support of CCR?
Leesa: I am always thrilled to see College Republicans seeking to be further involved in the organization and in the Republican Party. However, it is not about how I or the Thrive CCR team feel, but rather it is about each potential leader’s ability to provide opportunities and encouragement for CRs to become involved, and to create a rich, well- rounded College Republican experience.
6) With the information age, especially technology developed in CA’s Silicon Valley, everything you say or do is immortalized on the internet for eternity. How does the Thrive slate feel about some of their fellow Republicans’ actions?
Please address the Thrive/Rebuild supporters’ name-calling antics (example: Ariana has been called a "media whore," a "b***," a "diaper baby," and a "twat.") and President Trump’s rhetoric against certain people (You previously called him a "race-baiter" and "not a Republican")?
Would you, as chair, discourage these extreme actions? Do you plan to publicly call them out using social media platforms?
Leesa: There is no excuse for malicious behavior toward fellow College Republicans. I have spent hours speaking with the select few people I am aware of who have used social media platforms to focus on negative rhetoric, to privately express my concern with their words. I encourage everyone to engage in a more positive, constructive dialogue. However, unlike tactics used by others, myself and my team have never, and would never, threaten a CR to post or remove a post simply because we do not approve of its contents.
7) Can you talk about some allegations against Thrive slate members? Three come to mind right now: You (USC Chair controversy – typo?), Kevin (Christian Chacon controversy – accepting a bribe? & arrested 3 times?), Mason (impeachment controversy – did he kick out his vice chair?), and Jordan (misusing his power to email OC students).
Leesa: It is unfortunate that Thrive’s opponents are going to such lengths to not only seek out, but manufacture such negativity is not only an unproductive campaign strategy, but it reveals a broader, toxic style of leadership. Myself and Kevin Reed in particular were very surprised to see a statement by Christian Chacon depicting the exact opposite from our recent experiences with him. We make a deliberate point not to bribe or trade leadership roles, because that is something that is earned, not given.
8) Some chapters have complained that the chartering process is not clear, and the sheet handed out at convention did not answer their questions. Why can’t the executive board just vote to charter new chapters like before?
Leesa: CCR contact information has been more readily available to CRs this year than ever before. Since no chapters have recently gone through the chartering process, it is very understandable that some CRs are confused by all that it entails. This is why I believe that current CCR Chair Ivy Allen made a point to publicly address these questions at CRP Convention in February. The Executive Board will be voting to issue chapters on April 28th at 10AM, as indicated in the 2017 Call to Convention made available to all CCR Chapter Chairs.
9) History tells us that the CCR board has largely been chosen by board members hand- picking their successors, and then all of the chosen successors running together on one, unopposed slate. How do you feel about this process? Do you think this optimizes the likelihood of prepared officers? Do you think this is unfair to “outsiders”? Do you think this system may invite corruption?
Leesa: To an extent, that is an understandable misconception; however, it is an incorrect one. Whenever College Republicans ask any CCR leader how to become more involved, we respond with the advice of: show up, grow your chapter, be active on campus, get involved in your community, and encourage others to do the same. The difference from the mentality you describe and what makes CCR successful is that CCR leadership focuses on involvement, results, and humility. Any “title” or “position” is always secondary to the impact we can have on our peers and our communities, and to the work that can be accomplished as leaders.
Each position on the CCR board is a new challenge with late nights, long tabling shifts at chapters, 100-mile drives, and endless opportunities to harness. Even after someone has served on the CCR Board for a year, it would not be fair to the organization for a new leader to be picked by their predecessor. It is a critical tenet of CCR to always seek out the next generation of leaders, whether they have been heavily involved, are driven new members, or “outsiders.”
I have yet to see this type of fostering of leadership from Team Thrive’s opponent, as it seems they have thus far used the very tactics they accuse CCR of enlisting in growing a team.
10) Is there anything you’d like to say to supporters/dissenters?
Leesa: I’m really not fond of the word “dissenter” in this context. Unless you are leaving the GOP to be a Democrat or a Communist, we are still all on the same team. Not only are we all Republicans, but we are all College Republicans. It is my goal, and the goal of the entire Thrive CCR team, to unite College Republicans behind our similarities.
You can follow the authors on Twitter: @EricLendrum26 and @UCDavisEngineer.
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