By Kevin Kelley
It was standing room only at the Westlake Recreation Center Sept. 18 as about 140 area Republicans gathered for the inaugural meeting of the West Shore Republicans.
Fairview Park Councilman John Hinkel led the effort to create the new organization, which he said will meet every other month, most likely on the second or third Thursday of a particular month.
The strong turnout for the first meeting pleased Hinkel.
“Having a crowd that size was bigger than we even hoped for,” Hinkel told West Life. “Our initial guess was that perhaps 50 to 75 folks would show up.”
A larger gathering is a main goal of the new group, he said, which he hopes will attract more prominent speakers than the Republican clubs of an individual community.
Hinkel made clear his plan is not to replace city Republican clubs, which he said should continue to meet. However, he said he believes local Republicans will find it more exciting to enter a meeting room with 100 people instead of just 10.
“You’re going to meet more people, not only from your own city but you can network,” Hinkel said.
The main speaker for the first meeting was Kevin O’Brien, the conservative columnist from The Plain Dealer. Elaborating on a recent column on the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, O’Brien said Republicans need to stick with a strategy that will defeat Obamacare, regardless of the negative consequences they may face in near-term elections.
With Obamacare, O’Brien said, Americans are “cashing in our freedom for a bogus medical insurance policy.”
Saying Obamacare will lead to rationing of health care, O’Brien said the law only guarantees a place in line for care.
“When they say you’re not going to get treated, you’re not going to get treated,” the North Olmsted resident said.
O’Brien predicted that Obamacare will fail. Then its defects will be used by Democrats as selling points to promote a single-payer health care system, the columnist said.
When it comes to choosing candidates, O’Brien said the Republican Party needs to prevent allowing perfection to be the enemy of good. Republicans should follow the Bill Buckley rule, he said, meaning they should support the most conservative candidate with the best chance of winning.
At times, Republican voters may have to support a candidate who has some views they disagree with, O’Brien said. As an example, the columnist said he disagrees with Sen. Rob Portman’s support of gay marriage but said he will likely back him.
Seldom is there a perfect candidate, O’Brien said.
“Ronald Reagan is dead and he’s not going to resurrect until the last day,” he said.
O’Brien urged club members to reach out to their friends who may not have given much thought to political issues. Noting that a number of attendees were of a certain age, O’Brien suggested they sign up on Facebook to begin communicating about politics with their younger nieces and nephews.
Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost also spoke at the Sept. 18 meeting and noted that no other Ohio county has more registered Republicans. When he asked attendees if they were ever frustrated by the GOP, nearly all raised their hands.
“If you’re frustrated with the Republicans but still engaged, that’s half the battle,” Frost said.
Hinkel, who has been working on the launch of the West Shore Republicans since late January, said he’s seeking to attract a broad group of generally conservative Republicans who will work together.
“I like the big-tent Republican approach,” Hinkel told West Life. Republicans are outnumbered in the county and must therefore stick together, he said.
The next meeting of the group will be Nov. 14, but no speaker has yet been selected, Hinkel said. Future meetings, he said. will center on hot-button issues, such as alleged spying by the National Security Agency and the 2014 race for Ohio governor.