CCR Interviews Part II: Rebuild CCR
ric 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. Which do you consider more important for the California College Republicans; electing Republicans to office in California, or spreading conservatism on college campuses?
(Chair Candidate) Ariana Rowlands: It is all about balance. Right now CCR is really lacking in activism, whether it be planning activism events or strategy for fighting back against the militant left, CCR does not currently provide substantial assistance in any activism departments. There is no support for people who want to do activism, only for people who want to knock doors. And I think that it is fair to say that the game of politics is and has been changing. The methods of old don’t always work nowadays, and we have to continuously find new ways to adapt, to recruit and to empower. We are not exclusively about activism, but we are trying to make up for the imbalance, especially in an off-election year.
2. Why do you think Thrive has so adamantly refused to respond to media inquiries or your several debate invitations?
(Communications Director Candidate) Vincent Wetzel: While I cannot speak for the actions taken by Thrive, I can say that Rebuild has made it a top priority to ensure a transparent process where we put ourselves out there to answer the tough questions that CRs up and down the state have for us. We feel that it is a basic obligation and sign of respect for the CRs of this state (including those who do not support us) to have this open dialogue. We encourage Thrive to follow our example.
3. Give me your top reasons for why there is such a divide/controversy between the slates.
(Executive Director Candidate) Jacob Ellenhorn: This divide exists because Thrive is holding on, for dear life, to the old model of the party. This model is about not offending anyone too much, it’s about quiet change, and it's about involving only those students who fit the model. What we are pushing for is for a bottom up organization that focuses on individual chapters, giving them the resources they need to be able to make names for themselves on their campuses. We are really disrupting the system. We have such a diverse group students on our slate with so many different perspectives, but what unifies us is our shared belief in being outspoken. That spirit needs to be injected into CCR. If we are going to Rebuild the organization, and the GOP in California we need to not be afraid of getting out there. In short, this divide is really about insularity versus opennessess.
4. Is there anything you’d like to say to both your supporters and your dissenters?
(Co-Chair Candidate) Christian Chacon: If you think CCR is fine the way it is and cannot be improved in any way, then keep on the same path and vote Thrive. If you feel that there is room for improvement and that we as an organization must always strive to make ourselves better so that we can better represent and serve the College Republicans in our state then vote Rebuild. Rebuild completely embodies the drive and passion for change and the want to engage in new ideas and engage in new styles of leadership. Many colleges were skeptical of Rebuild’s message. In fact, a number of schools, including Orange Coast College, were originally Thrive supporting schools until a crisis occurred on their campus that caused them to turn to CCR for help and support. They all found the same thing which is that CCR as it currently stood was unable to provide support for campuses that had the worst opposition against them. After contacting our candidate for Chair, Ariana Rowlands, and members of Rebuild, each and every campus had the resources and skills they needed to handle the press and fight back effectively. Even UC Davis, which is a strong supporter of Thrive, was up against hard opposition during their Milo event still called Ariana when things got tough and she helped them despite their well known opposition to her. Thrive is a peacetime slate, and right now we are at war.
Now for some questions for you, in particular.
5. It has been repeatedly noted that you are the “outsiders” in this race. Namely, not a single one of your currently-announced candidates has any experience on the state board of CCR. Do you acknowledge that this can be a legitimate cause for concern for some people? And how do you plan to compensate for the lack of state leadership experience?
(Bay Area Regional Vice Chair Candidate) Justin Azzarito: In my time working with the candidates of Rebuild CCR, I've been amazed at the leadership expertise that our team has consistently demonstrated on campuses across our state. As a chapter President, Rebuild's message of activism and transparency resonated well with me after receiving no support and seeing little action coming from our current Executive Committee. State leadership experience ultimately means nothing if our chapters aren't given the resources they need to succeed. The Rebuild team is comprised of some of the most devoted chapter Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Executive Officers in our state, and I'm certain that the leadership we've demonstrated on our respective campuses will help to advance bigger and better opportunities for the California College Republicans under our state administration.
6. This one is for Ariana in particular. It has been noted that you have several affiliations with rather controversial conservative figures, most notably Milo Yiannopoulos. Some have taken this to an extreme of labeling you a member of, or sympathizer with, the alt-right. How do you feel about the alt-right, and Milo in particular since his scandal? And what do you plan to do to further prove where exactly you stand on the right-wing political spectrum, so as to dissuade such fears of possible extremism?
Ariana: Milo is out there making a difference and fighting for the cause. He has influenced the political climate on college campuses more effectively than anyone else has in a very long time. I am not alt-right, and have stated as such many times. I would, rather, characterize myself as a libertarian conservative for anyone who’s asking!
7. Another issue brought into the spotlight by this race is, what appears to be, a growing divide between a new generation of College Republicans whom trend more conservative, and the still rather moderate Republican Party of California. What do you think are the causes for this, and if you’re elected, how do you hope to bridge the divide between the more conservative students and the more moderate party leaders?
Jacob: I actually disagree. If anything this race shows more of the divide between the authentic base of the party and the old school GOP in the state. Our slate embodied the new face of the GOP, the new rebellious face of conservatism. This race is not about more conservative versus the less. It is about who is more in touch with the direction the party is going in. I would argue, and I believe most would agree, that Rebuild has its finger on the pulse of what will help grow this organization. That is about engaging conservatives on campus, speaking out about what we are passionate about, and using social and news media to get our voices out. The old model of quietly existing in campuses and being insular is outdated. It’s time to be loud, proud, and unabashedly REPUBLICAN.
8. While the race for chapter endorsements is now roughly even (26 to 20, in favor of Thrive), Rebuild lags far behind Thrive in terms of endorsements from elected officials in California (19 to 2, in favor of Thrive). Do you consider this a problem, and why or why not? How do you feel in general about the role of elected officials’ endorsements in a College Republicans race?
Christian: It looks good aesthetically to have them back you, but it only highlights how thrive is out of touch with the student base. What the current CCR Board leadership and Thrive is trying to do with the organization which is to focus its sole attention on the state legislature is understandable.However, we must first ensure our chapters are taken care of and growing before we focus on our chief goal which is to elect Republicans into office. All of Rebuild’s efforts first and foremost are going to helping out chapters. This year isn’t an election year and our primary focus is to use this time in between elections to engage new and current students. We need to balance our organization and make sure we aren’t out of touch with our members, and also not out of touch with the races our candidates count on us to help boost in their favor.
9. Going off my previous question, I noted that the current race for chapter endorsements stands at 26-20, in favor of Thrive. I left out both the Santa Clara University and UC Berkeley chapters’ endorsements because they now officially seem to be up in the air, with Jose Diaz of Berkeley seeming to switch his endorsement and the remainder of the SCU executive board endorsing Thrive while their president, Justin Azzarito, endorsed Rebuild. What do you say to this recent confusion with the ambiguity of the endorsements of certain, particularly prominent, chapters?
(Administrative Vice Chair Candidate) Troy Worden: As President of the Berkeley College Republicans, Jose Diaz has the ability to endorse whichever slate he chooses, and to switch his endorsement as he sees fit. However, his endorsement is his alone - BCR has not voted to formally endorse either slate. What happened at Berkeley with regards to Mr. Diaz's endorsement has happened at other chapters as well; this is to be expected on any campuses with a diverse membership with a diverse range of opinions on what is best for College Republicans as a whole. The Rebuild slate has made it a rule not to interfere with local chapter affairs because we respect all chapters' autonomy and believe this is the best way to foster productive relations between them and any future executive board. Right now in Berkeley our central concern is free speech: my fellow CRs and I are working diligently to ensure David Horowitz and Ann Coulter can speak against sanctuary campuses at the "Home of the Free Speech Movement" in the wake of the Milo Yiannopoulos riots. We will not be intimidated by any "anti-fascist" plans to shut our events down. I believe this the correct posture for all CR chapters facing similar threats, and hopefully this is a stance the next executive board will strike once elected.
10. What do you think about the fact that some of the current board members, as well as some of the Thrive candidates, are not current college students? Do you think there is any legitimacy to the idea of non-students serving on the board, or do you believe the board should consist mostly of current students?
(Secretary Candidate) Leslie Garcia: I do find issue with members of CCR not being enrolled college students. CCR is meant to serve as a resource to CR clubs in order to promote conservatism and there is no one who understands the most effective methods of impacting the political climate on campuses other than college students themselves. Our CCR board should definitely consist of only current college students themselves because we are the ones on the frontlines combatting the leftist agenda in our lectures and in an increasingly hostile environment to conservative ideas.
Some candidates on the Thrive slate don’t even currently have chapters, and therefore have minimal to no experience in activism which is something Rebuild’s slate members are definitely not lacking. We willingly have put ourselves on the frontlines because conservatism is something we legitimately are passionate about. This race is not about titles and resume fillers, it is about furthering the conservative cause, and I can confidently say that every single member of Rebuild’s slate will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of this year’s election.
11. Some would say that you’ve have been overly involved in other chapters' activities, trying to gain more media attention for yourself. What can you say for your involvement in large scale CR events such as DCR’s Milo march and OCC’s student suspension?
Ariana: I don’t think that is fair to suggest that I did it for myself. I help other schools because a leader of CCR is supposed to support their chapters- regardless of who they endorsed or not. Davis endorsed Leesa, OCC endorsed me. I stepped in because nobody was there to help, and they asked me to. I will help any College Republican that needs help, and I think that it is unbecoming of a leader to treat people differently based on what “side” they are on. In the end, we are all College Republicans, and we all share the same successes, and the same failures.
12. The supporters of Thrive often accuse you of wanting media attention, to the detriment of CCR’s constitutional goals? In an incident like Nevada versus Ling Ling Chang’s/Young Kim’s campaigns, how do you justify picking one over the other?
Ariana: The two are not mutually exclusive. As a minority Party in the state of California, we have to make our voices heard in the media. We have to let others know what we stand for, and that we actually do take action to stand for our beliefs. In the case of Nevada, it was vitally important that President Trump win the election. His campaign specifically shelled out money for our deployment effort of over 100 College Republicans from 4 different states- something the campaign hadn’t done anywhere else in the country. I am told that Trump personally had Ben Carson and Rudy Giuliani fly out just days before the election to speak to our group to thank them for their efforts and to show the campaign’s appreciation for the youth support. That just goes to show how vitally important that effort was. It was no easy feat to coordinate the Make Nevada Red Again deployment, which is something that makes me qualified to be CCR Chair. A person who can unite that many College Republicans from across several states in a single event is someone who can unite the state of California.
13. History tells us that the revolutionary slate who runs against the “incumbent” slate tends to find themselves in an undesirable situation, where tensions are high and some careers paths become non-existent. How do you feel about leading the opposing slate, and do you think that you are leading your colleagues into potential danger?
(San Diego Regional Vice Chair Candidate) Gregory Lee Lu: Leading the opposition slate should not be intimidating. We are running because we have a mission and goal in mind that we all strongly believe. All of us are well aware of the potential fall out by running against the incumbents but we firmly believe in our mission. We cannot let the people at the top intimidate us and make us waver. We must brave the storm, and only then will we achieve what we desire. Otherwise, the status quo will continue and there will not be the needed change in this organization.
14. Can you give us a summary of your platform?
Ariana: We want California College Republicans to be strong on every level, and that starts with strong chapters.The California College Republicans will continue to be an organization that enables hard workers who support and promote conservatism and conservative candidates for elected office, and reject political correctness in favor of open dialogue. We will promote activism, leadership training and youth involvement in the Republican Party on all levels, while understanding that there is a place for all types and brands of conservatism and conservative students. We are here to help you reach your objective, you’re not here to help us reach ours. We want all chapters to have a strong relationship with their local Central Committees. We want chapters to coordinate events so that local CR’s can come help, we want to expand the network between CR’s across the state, and want to increase the transparency and accountability in the leadership.
15. What do you think you can bring to CCR that hasn’t been seen in the last several years of leadership?
Ariana: Rebuild CCR will bring transparency. Real transparency, not just the appearance of it. We will bring bottom-up administration, give power back to the individual chapters so that they and their members may work their way up. We will bring diversity of thought and style, and put an end to the backdoor deals and slipperiness that plagues the elite cliques of this organization once and for all. We will bring active recruitment and training to young conservative leaders across the state, and we will do all of this in a way that all College Republicans may openly and freely participate.
You can follow the authors on Twitter: @EricLendrum26 and @UCDavisEngineer.
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