Leadership Conference, Day 2

Second of my reports from the Western Region Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.  It is hard to pack more into a day than the organizers did yesterday but they tried.  The myriad speakers, information and training sessions allow attendees to hear and learn a lot.  The downside is that there is no way to attend everything because some of the events overlap or continue when you’re in line for coffee or looking for lunch.

You can imagine that the Republicans and conservatives who take the time and save to afford this expense are here because they are very politically involved (or they have to be by position or responsibilities).  I am certain if more from Hawaii could afford the expense and time away, more would make the trip.  It is fun.  It is always nice to be around politically like-minded people and everyone from the mainland has a Hawaii story to tell (or wants to have one).  I encourage each of them to visit and spend money on whichever is their favorite island.  It is also interesting to hear so many state and county party situations similar to ours.  For some, the politicking never actually ends – they just had the special election here in NV (and in NY), and VA, LA, MS and NJ have off-year state elections this month and next.

The early bird gets the coffee.  You have get moving early, the lines for coffee and any sort of breakfast snack get long way before the first speaker.  The Venetian has water stations in the hallways but I couldn’t wait for coffee until I got all the way (through the casino) to the auditorium.  As we woke and made our way to the conference, folks were hearing of Gadhafi’s demise.

I am enjoying checking in with many of the Western Region RNC members with whom I spend time at RNC meetings.  There are a couple members here from the Midwest with whom I previously campaigned or worked with as State Chairman and then there are people who know people who I have worked with on another campaign or in the party.  I was able to personally thank an RNC member who I had recommended to Jonah Kaauwai to assist in designing the HRP sustaining donor program.  Some consultants and vendors with whom I have worked are here for the conference or a day of it.  Lingle & Aiona campaigns’ GC (General Consultant) John Peschong was moderator for a media session this afternoon.

Today is more “normal” for one of these conferences, probably because the Presidential candidates left to their next campaign stops.  NV Gov Brian Sandoval opened the morning.  Sandoval is one of the super young Governors elected in 2010 which includes Martinez in NM and Haley in SC and Walker in WI.  He was followed on stage by ID Rep Raul Labrador.  He is better unscripted but this guy is great.  Really, great.

Lot of sessions during the day.  The Exhibit Hall was open but it wasn’t much different or any more robust than yesterday and it set away from the other sessions (as are the breakout rooms).  If Hawaii Presidential campaigns have reps here, they should grab a handful of the walk pieces or signs that their Hawaii campaign will probably never see.  A couple candidates have t-shirts for sale.  Sessions today included a presentation on energy and the economy, the Latino community, the importance of personal interaction for voter outreach, campaign mobile apps, media training, advanced fundraising (no app for that) was useful but could easily have been a whole day session, conducting grassroots activities in rural areas and determining whether your social media outreach compares favorably in fundraising and personal contact.  Most of the breakout sessions have about 20-40 people attending so you can get any question answered.  The NRCC staff gave an overview of US House races (unlike the pundits, the NRCC – who gave us the incredible win in ’10 – doesn’t think we’ll have a net loss in ’12) though it would have been nice to have a similar NRSC staff overview as we work to take the majority and “fire” Harry Reid.  Later, a FB rep led a panel discussion on the importance of social media.

The Latino vote is so important in the West (and everywhere else) and it didn’t take the national census to point out the demographic shift in the last decade.  Following one panel, it got very loud and animated as frustrated grassroots activists and community leaders – Hispanic and otherwise – tried to get panel members to “give us the message to take to the community” but it took another impromptu meeting in a breakout room to finish that discussion.

The facilities can be graded anywhere from great to very good.  One disadvantage of a conference in such a humongous place (Venetian) is that there are four or six other large conferences also here.  When we conduct these conferences in a “normal-sized” venue, you more often run in to people you know or have met between sessions, in halls or restaurants.  This week, it is easy to get 30 meters from the auditorium and be totally surrounded by people with different looking badges.

The two speakers at the end of the day were GA Rep Tom Price and NV Rep Joe Heck.

It’s had been a long day and everyone was tired, not really in the mood for another ‘social,’ so the conference switches it up by inviting us to a screening of a Citizen’s United movie Ronald Reagan, Rendezvous With Destiny.  It is a good movie, more documentary, nostalgic for me.  It also wrapped up in time for people to make the start of the World Series game.  A good way to end another day of political and all things political.

Except, we’re in Las Vegas so the day isn’t really over.  For many of the visitors to the city, their day is just getting ready to begin.  Last night, some of our group took in a show (Jersey Boys), others tonight going to Phantom (on $50 tickets, no less!), Joan Rivers or Jersey Boys.


Aloha, Willes


Tomorrow is another early day (not early for a conference but early for a conference in Las Vegas) but the Hawaii contingent is pretty excited with Senate candidate, former Governor Linda Lingle a keynote speaker in the morning and a Miriam Hellreich organized Lingle campaign fundraiser in the afternoon.