Saturday, Young Republicans gathered in Chicago to vote for their next group of leaders. Georgia’s own Meagan Hanson (Immediate Past Chair of the Georgia Young Republicans) was the candidate for Chair on the YRNation team. Meagan worked tirelessly for 9 months to campaign for her and her team. I am truly thankful to call her my friend, and to have been there to vote for her. Unfortunately her team came up short, but as always she showed the utmost integrity, class, and grace.
As I reflect back on this past week I have probably more mixed emotions than I can fully explain. YRNation, Meagan Hanson’s team that made a bid for positions on the board of the Young Republicans National Federation came up short on Saturday. Please note I refer to them as a team, not a slate. This team worked tirelessly for 9 months reaching out to their fellow Young Republicans asking for their support. They made those that supported them part of their team, not just those running for office. During my time in Chicago I made new friends, and the friendships I had prior to this trip strengthened greatly.
I arrived in Chicago on Wednesday and was able to spend some time with friends from the Georgia delegation by taking in a Cubs game at Wrigley field. It was the absolute best way to kick off this conference. Afterwards we went to the opening social downtown to meet our fellow YR’s from around the country. That night we all made fast friends with like minded individuals from around the world. There were not only people there from YRNF, but other countries sent their leaders to see how our conference is run. It was amazing to me that on our very first night there we all made friends that we will keep in contact with for years to come. Everyone was able to not only discuss politics, but often talked about our home state and (politely) shared why we believe that where we live is God’s country. I have never been so proud to be a part of the Georgia delegation, as our people went above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome while with us. The mixer was great and we all were ready for site seeing and speakers on Thursday plus the rest of the conference.
Having never been in the downtown Chicago area and seen the sites, I was ready to see what this city was all about. Some of us took in The Bean, Portillo’s famous beef sandwiches (which I determined was not for me), Millenium Park, Chicago Art Institute, and even heard from Jeb Bush Jr. at the afternoon session. I even got a chance to visit with family for dinner and enjoy some Chicago deep dish pizza (yum!). Thursday night was a party at Howl at the Moon hosted by the Chicago Young Republicans, and people paid a pretty penny to have their alma mater fight song, or state song played, it was very lively.
Friday those that had not registered yet did so and continued on our way checking out Chicago along with our new friends. We took in a boat tour, had a reception to meet the YRNation team, and checked out various popular Chicago restaurants. It was great to see so many friendly faces and hear about how their clubs operate and about other state organizations as a whole.
Saturday we started early. The Georgia delegation arrived around 8 for breakfast and mingling, with the convention scheduled to start by 10. Unfortunately due to more delegates and guests arriving than planned for, the convention started around 11:30. Georgia was the first delegation seated (the delegations were called in one by one and seated to ensure they had enough seats for everyone), we were on the front right side facing the stage. For the few minutes that we were the only delegation in there I looked around and was so proud to call these people my friends and Georgia my home. See, I normally refer to myself as a Florida girl (but have lived in Georgia for almost 7 years), but not on this day. Louisiana, Texas, then Florida were seated behind us. The Georgia delegation then started cheering for every single state that came in and everyone started to join in. It was encouraging to see so many young adults cheering for each other.
Once the convention began we had to begin reviewing on the Credentials Committee report. There were a few discrepancies that were brought up to be voted on, one of which was the legitimacy of the Pennsylvania delegation. They had an unresolved conflict, as two people were claiming to be their Chairman. The group in attendance was with the person who was Chair-Elect, but after the Executive Committee of their board voted to suspend their Chairman (which was apparently an unresolved issue) the Chair-Elect was given the title. A vote was taken, and it was voted to allow the 40+ members to vote during the convention. It all seemed a bit confusing to me, as they said they had not received an email back from one of the people claiming to be Chairman (the original one who was not in attendance), but didn’t say if they had called him and noted that it was still within the 7 days he was allowed to respond. It seemed like the YRNF Chairman and even the Credentials Committee Chairman were advocating for Pennsylvania to be seated, despite the fact that the “suspension” of the PA Chairman was in clear violation of not only their bylaws but recognizing the Chair-Elect as chair was inconsistent with the YRNF bylaws as well per the discussion before the vote. The other part I didn’t quite understand was that Pennsylvania was allowed to vote on the issue, so they of course voted yes. Ultimately their votes would not have changed the outcome of allowing them to in fact be considered delegates for this convention, but it was all a bit sketchy. The vote was around 450 for them to be seated to 250 against*** (which I don’t know exact numbers due to voting strength vs. those in attendance). After proceeding from the vote the designated alternates were moved up to fill open delegate positions.
Now into hour 3, we started the nominations for Chair. Meagan Hanson (GA) and Dennis Cook (IL) were the two candidates. Meagan is the Immediate Past Chair of the Georgia Young Republicans, and Dennis current YRNF Co-Chair, and former Illinois YR Chairman. Speeches were to be under 3 minutes. Dennis delivered his speech followed by Meagan. Dennis talked about his history in the YR’s, YRNF, and Chicago politics. Meagan spoke about becoming a group that can work with other Republican organizations around the country to elect a Republican President in 2016, she also did something very unconventional and encouraged the crowd to vote for people on both slates rather than a whole if they felt led to, because if we didn’t have diversity we could potentially struggle to work as a team. During Meagan’s speech, the Florida Young Republicans Chair stood in the back and heckled her the entire time, even after order was called by the Chairman. As always, she handled herself with poise and grace. Around 3:20pm vote count was announced and Dennis Cook was to be named the new Chair of YRNF. By my calculations the vote number was very close to that of the vote regarding Pennsylvania***.
Although coming up short, Meagan handled herself professionally, smiled, walked around to hug her team (plus some that were not), and thank people for their time… Immediately. I am so proud to call her my close friend and to have voted for her. She worked hard, traveled the country to meet the voters, and raised money to help people afford to make the trip, and trust me, it was very expensive.
After a tough loss, it shows true character to get back up and move forward with the focus of the common goal. It always confirms my vote was right for me when the candidate shows such graciousness.
After a nearly 9 hour day, and all feeling a bit defeated we all walked out with our heads held high. I understood why Meagan put together the team she did, not only was Meagan kind and respectful, but everyone that surrounded her was as well. This was the team I wanted to be a part of, win or lose.
So, on that day I was ashamed to be called a “Florida Girl”. Saturday I realized, I am a Georgian, and sure as heck proud to say it. Poor manners are unacceptable, and made me appreciate that where I live people have respect for others. I’m not saying that all Floridians are that way, because trust me, my family and friends there are not.
The Georgia Young Republicans organization has been good to me, and many of these folks have become like family. The 22 delegates that were with us in Chicago are some of the best and brightest. Sitting in that conference was harder than the countless hours we have spent together knocking doors and making phone calls. But, I will continue to fight to get Republicans elected with My Team and their team.
We made plenty of friends from other states (and countries), and I believe that GYR has allies across the world to help us when the time comes that we have a tight race and we need their help.
The leaders of YRUnite slate that won were respectful, have impressive skills, backgrounds, and experience. I look forward to working with them to get a Republican President elected. I hope their supporters follow their example, and that we can all come together to work towards the common goal, to get Republicans elected.
I believe Meagan has and will continue to make Georgia proud, win or lose. That also goes for the folks that I sat with on Saturday to represent our great state.
***More clear voting numbers have been given to me. The vote for the PA vote and the Chair vote was closer to 263 (Against PA, for Meagan) 389 (For PA, for Dennis)