The new chairman of the Iowa Republican Party promises to rebuild the party from the grassroots up, using new technology and aggressively recruiting new candidates for the legislature.
Thirty-five-year-old Matt Strawn of Ankeny grew up on an eastern Iowa farm near Van Horne, earned a law degree and worked for a Republican member of the U.S.House. "I think I have just a little bit different profile given my service to the party out in Washington and since coming back home," Strawn says. Strawn now lives in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny, runs a p.r. firm and is a co-owner of the Iowa Barnstormers.
Strawn says capturing the governor’s office in 2010 is a top priority, along with electing more Republicans to statewide office and the legislature. "You have to have a consistent message of our beliefs with conservative solutions to people’s problems and if we’re messaging properly on how our beliefs can best fix the problems in Iowa…you know it helps us recruit volunteers; it helps us find candidates; you know it helps us build our contribution and financial base," Strawn says, "so it all works together."
Strawn makes the case that Iowa Republicans need to retool party "mechanics" and while Strawn says he’s committed to reaching out to all demographic groups, he points to the 30-and-under age group. Democrat Barack Obama beat G-O-P nominee John McCain two-to-one in Iowa in that under-30 crowd. "Republicans from the national ticket to here in the state were not using the technologies to communicate with that very electorate. When we’re not using Facebook, when we’re not using Twitter, when we’re not using text messaging, we’re telling those age groups that either we don’t care how you communicate or we don’t want to know — and either way we’re sending a horrible message," Strawn says. "So that’s one that immediately, from day one, we’re going to aggressively change the way that we talk to that age group."
Strawn made the change on his Facebook page not only on day one, but in hour one — after he won election as party chair and before he met with the media. "If you check my status now…I am humbled and honored to have been elected to chair the Republican Party of Iowa — and on my Twitter site as well," Strawn says, with a laugh.
Strawn was elected to the post of party leader Saturday morning by the 17-member Iowa Republican Party state central committee. Strawn admits his Republican beliefs were partly inherited from his parents. "I believe I was in the fourth grade when Reagan was reelected…we actually had to state our allegiance for a presidential candidate. You know, I had it in the back of my mind that I probably would not be fed dinner that night if I did not support Reagan in class that day," Strawn says. "But…what really kind of sealed it for me was my college years, to be honest with you. Nothing can harden an impressionable mind’s conservative philosophy than spending four years in Iowa City." Strawn got his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Click on the audio link below to listen to a news conference held early this afternoon at Iowa GOP headquarters.