Conservative activists need to focus more on local organizing, issues and candidates and the rest will fall in place, a representative with a national political organization told a local group Saturday.
Drew Ryun, president of American Majority Action and son of former Republican Congressman and track star Jim Ryun, spoke to 30 people representing Goose Creek 9/12 and local tea party and Republican groups at Hanahan City Hall.
Drew Ryun and his twin brother Ned "recognized a need and opportunity to move past protesting," Drew said during a break in Saturday's presentation. "Protesting is great. It created a public awareness that there are a lot of Americans that are frustrated with what was going on with the size and scope and growth of government … (but) what are the next steps beyond that?"
Ryun said American Majority Action trains people to be more effective volunteers and to run for local office. During the training Ryun frequently references effective community-based tactics used by the now-defunct liberal organization ACORN.
Focusing on local politics, Ryun said, creates the organization and future leaders for victories at the state and federal level. He compared the approach to flipping the food pyramid upside down, with local offices being the top priority and the president being at the bottom.
Ryun said efforts to win locally -- by organizing and finding candidates to run for office -- percolate down to the state and federal level.
"The biggest hurdle we've faced is, in a sense, changing the vision and giving them a different vision," said Ryun. "I think it's somewhat more appealing to be engaged at the federal level because that's where a lot of news and attention is, but a lot more stuff that goes on locally impacts their lives, whether it's city council, school board, county commissioners, with the taxes that they are faced with."
Samuel Rivers, vice chairman of the Berkeley County Republicans and member of Goose Creek 9/12, invited Ryun to speak to local conservative volunteers to "give them the tools to engage in the political process throughout the year." Rivers agreed that the energies of area groups need to be rechanneled to more local efforts.
"I know people who only work with federal candidates and I tell them they need to work on local level, but in their mind, they are helping to get federal candidates elected and they forget about the local candidates," said Rivers.
Lin Bennett, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, said getting candidates to run for local office helps provide a "pipeline for future elections and people moving up" to higher offices. Bennett also underscored Ryun's emphasis on the importance of "one-on-one contact."
"The more people you can talk to the more they know you," said Bennett. "You're not just a flier in the mail or a voice on the phone. So when you do call or send them something, they say they know that person and will pay attention to it."