The Boone County Republican Party Caucus on Saturday brought 102 registered Republicans to the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia to elect delegates to state and district conventions as well as give their ideas about the state party platform.
The consensus among attendees was that the party was much more unified in its voting and party thinking than in past years. There was no opposition to the slates of delegates presented by committee member Sara Walsh, and only five amendments to the state party platform were raised.
“I have not seen this much unity in all my past four plus years volunteering for the party in Boone,” Walsh, who also serves as a committee member for the State Republican Party, said. “I just see wonderful things on the horizon.”
Not everyone was enthused by the party’s focus on unity. This was the first year slates for conventions have been approved as a whole instead of having caucusgoers vote on each individual candidate for delegate, according to William Samuels. Samuels has attended every caucus since 1984 and has been on the slate for congressional and state conventions since then as well. Although he helped put together this year’s unity slate and is on it himself, he initially hoped there would be more options.
“I was expecting there would be a Cruz slate and/or a Trump slate,” Samuels said. “But people who wanted to vote specifically for a candidate didn’t have the chance.”
Samuels said the state committee was more involved in the agenda-setting process of the local caucuses this year than in past years. According to party chairman Mike Zweifel, the March 15 primary this year had already determined that Boone County would send 37 delegates to vote for Donald Trump for president and 15 for Ted Cruz. In 2012, that decision was made at the caucus.
“I think people tried very hard to be united and get along and that’s positive,” Samuels said. “But I think this whole thing this year is being done too much from the top down.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to propose amendments to the state Republican Party platform. Of the five proposed, three passed. The first was to “promote educational choice” by creating more charter schools across the state. It passed unanimously.
The second amendment passed was that U.S. judges not use Sharia law or other international laws in their courtroom, except when required by international treaty. It stemmed from concern that instead of abiding by the U.S. constitution, some judges in U.S. courtrooms are abiding by the body of law that governs members of Islamic faith and when taken to extremes, includes corporal punishment such as stoning.
“We do have judges who are using Sharia law in adjudicating family law cases or civil contract law cases,” amendment proposer Fred Berry said. “This shall not stand.”
The amendment was met with applause and passed. However, there are no reported cases of judges using Sharia law in the United States.
Berry cited Dearborn, Michigan, a city with one of the highest concentration of Muslim residents in the country, as an example of where this is taking place. In 2013, the National Review published an article saying Dearborn fully implemented Sharia Law. The article was circulated widely on social media and on some conservative news sites. However, the National Review is a satirical publication. There is no city, or country, in the world today that complies with full Sharia law, according to the PEW research center.
The last amendment approved was the request to appeal all prevailing wage legislation, which the amendment proposer called “an egregious example of state interference in free economic activity with no public benefit and public harm.” Those who expressed support for this legislation mostly cited examples of high wages in the construction industry making the industry unduly expensive.
“The prevailing wage law drives up the cost of government construction at all levels,” said one attendee in support of the amendment. “If you go to replace a piece of carpet, you have to pay prevailing wage. We’re not talking about building the Garage Mahal. It needs to be repealed.”
These amendments will now be presented to the state convention to be voted on.
Hampton Williams is an attorney who says his involvement with the Republican Party began at age five. He said caucuses are important because they serve as a way for local counties to have an influence over the state party.
“Political parties serve an important function by opening the process up to not just governmental functions but to communities,” Williams said. “These are your neighbors, and everyone else, coming together to define what the community wants and what the community needs and have open conversations apart from the administration of government.”
The state convention will take place May 20-21 in Branson, Mo. The national Republican convention will be in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21.