Skip to comments.New GOP Leader Looks Ahead
Posted on 01/17/2009 3:10:16 PM PST by nickcarraway
Charlie Webster promises to take the Maine Republican Party in a new direction.
The newly-elected party chairman sat down Thursday with Statehouse Reporter Susan Cover to talk about his goals over a piece of Dutch apple pie at the Top of the Hill Grill. He officially takes over Feb. 1 and says he will work closely with Vice Chairman Charlie Summers of Scarborough.
Webster, owner of Webster Heating Co., took a break from working on oil burners and giving estimates to explain his vision for the party for the next two years.
Democrats are set to meet Jan. 25 to pick their new slate of party leaders.
Webster, a former state lawmaker, shared his views on the party in Maine, President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama. His answers have been edited for length.
QUESTION: You've been out of politics for several years. Why get back in now?
WEBSTER: I'm convinced most people in Maine don't agree with the direction we've gone, particularly working people, people I call the truck drivers, factory workers, secretaries and nurses. Everyday working people are really angry and concerned about where Maine's gone.
I come from a working background and I think Republicans tend to represent working-class people better. We need someone to bring that to the attention of voters and the public, and that's what I'm going to do.
Q: What will your goals be as chairman?
WEBSTER: We're among the highest-taxed people in the country. We have a welfare state that's simply running amok. People are moving here to get on government programs, which offends most working-class people.
My goal would be to educate the public and start electing more legislators who would represent the people. The Democrats have done a really good job, to their credit, of electing people.
They run like Republicans, talk like Republicans and go down there and vote like they're Democrats. No one is going to convince me the majority of Maine people are liberal. But the Democrats are better campaigners. We need to run better campaigns.
Q: With the exception of Sen. Susan Collins, it was a tough year for Maine Republicans. What went wrong?
WEBSTER: The one race I was involved in, in northern Franklin County, was the seat where the only Democrat in Maine lost. We put together a plan here in Franklin County, we put the issues on the table.
When I was Senate leader, we ran issue campaigns. I think the party hasn't been as aggressive as it could be.
The issues I care about are free enterprise, limited government, limited taxation. I think we spend way too much time on social issues. People in Maine, the ones I talk to, are people that are struggling to pay their bills.
Q: I've read you'd like to employ a different fundraising strategy.
WEBSTER: My plan is to travel the state, have 50 to 80 events. I call it the $20 tour. I'll call former legislators, I'll ask them to have a reception in their home and invite 30, 40, 50 people, try to raise $1,000 for the party. Get people back involved.
The people I appeal to and I want to reach and educate about what the Republican party is all about are people who don't have lots of money.
Q: Do you foresee a Republican winning the race for governor in 2010?
WEBSTER: I think we have a good chance. As far as I'm concerned, we need to make the next election, the election of 2010, a referendum on 36 years of one philosophy of government. It's not about 36 years of one-party government. It's 36 years of one philosophy of government. That's what's hurting Maine.
Q: Why will this be the tipping point when it's been 36 years?
WEBSTER: I think the people are really angry. That's the only word I can use. They are angry, but they don't know who to blame.
The same people I talk to who are angry about the fact that the Legislature put a tax on Diet Coke (it was later repealed by voters) turned around and voted for the same people who passed it.
I'm going to give the Democrats credit. They run better campaigns.
If a representative from one of those districts in rural Maine votes, if they vote in a way that's not in the best interest of rural Maine, somebody needs to tell their voters. And that's what my job is.
Q: What's your assessment of President Bush?
WEBSTER: I'm not a real fan of Bush. I think part of his problem is he's being blamed for a lot of things that aren't his fault. He did what he thought was right. I respect him for that.
I think he's made some poor decisions. I respect his family, I think he did the best he could, but obviously he hasn't been an asset to the Republican Party.
Q: What do you think of President-elect Barack Obama?
WEBSTER: I think he's a dynamic speaker. I worry about his redistribution of wealth. I think the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is Democrats think government can solve everything by taking money from me and giving it to someone else. That bothers me.
I'm concerned he is too liberal. We may never see that because the economy is in such tough shape.
I'm like a lot of people. We're hopeful. We're giving him the benefit of the doubt and hope he can do some things for Maine.
Maine has a Republican Party?
If it wasn't for that, you'd be losing population.
We in NH are going to overtake you in population some time this year. Maybe your productive citizens are moving here.
That's very true. The sooner we face that fact, the better. I hope this guy is successful in helping the GOP win.
I will try to meet him shortly. I will give Free Republic
an update. After reading the article, I am afraid I am not
optimistic. I see another wishy-washy RINO. But time will tell.
Hmmm, I didn’t read it that way. Let us know what you find out.
Hmmm, I didn’t read it that way. Let us know what you find out.
He could start by sending snowe and collins into RINO history.
He knows that the problem with the Republican Party is that it is perceived to be out of touch with the average working class American. They are perceived to be the party of big business. Yet the Republicans have better policies for the working class Americans.
Second point is that the Democrats present their message far better than the Republicans. Yes Democrats lie and lie some more. Yes the media gives them cover. But they are able to put two sentences together and they do take their message to the people.
The Republican Party needs to get back to the basics and stay in touch with the people. Reinforce that Government is not the solution. That YOU can make better decisions for yourself than some government official in a distant city. It is about individual freedom NOT collective rights.
putting leader and gop in the same sentence if like putting honest and democrat in the same sentence.