Over 100 people gathered at G.O.P. headquarters in Des Moines this morning for a public forum featuring the six men who want to be the next chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

The men were quizzed for an hour and a half by members of the G.O.P. state central committee, the board that will vote next weekend to choose a new party leader. Three of the candidates for party chair are men in their thirties. The other three are more than a decade older and two of those "elder statesmen" have held political office.

Former Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate served in the Iowa Senate and as Iowa Secretary of State, too. Pate argued Republicans need to present a "pro-active, positive" message. "It doesn’t mean that we’re not against what the Democrats are doing. We always just say, ‘They’re raising taxes.’ Let’s go a step farther," Pate said. "Let’s talk about how dumb they’re spending the money."

Danny Carroll of Grinnell was a state legislator for 12 years and he told the crowd his number one goal would be party unity. "I would simply sum it up that we need to be speaking with one voice," Carroll said.

Thirty-seven-year-old Christopher Reed of Marion ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008 and he stressed the need to keep the party’s at its "conservative core" rather than move to the center. "We have been outspent and outmaneuvered in technology by the Democrats," Reed said. "That’s got to change."

Thirty-five-year-old Matt Strawn of Ankeny is co-owner of the Iowa Barnstormers and a former aide to two members of congress. Strawn stressed the need for the state chairman to rebuild the party’s image. "Go out on the street and you poll 100 different people and ask them what the Republican Party stands for, you’re probably going to get 100 different answers," Strawn said, "which is why we need a consistent message."

Thirty-three-year-old Matt Randall, a businessman from Ames, stressed the need to "build a bench" of Republicans for the future by reaching out to younger Iowans and encouraging them to run for local office. "I think we have to attack government structure," Randall said. "…As we all know, we’ve got too much government in this state and it’s our own…fault for letting that happen." T

The sixth candidate for party chair is Andy Cable of Eldora, chairman of the Hardin County Republicans, who promised to respond to "disenchanted" Republicans around the state. "They perceive that the party is nothing more than a bunch of people in Des Moines, Iowa, that don’t understand what’s going on out there," Cable said.

Today’s forum was a first-of-its-kind event to let the public hear from those running to be state party chairman.  Twelve of the 17 members of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee attended today’s forum.  The panel will meet Saturday, January 9 and the candidate who wins at least nine votes will secure the job of party chairman.