(Chuck Muth) – A few years ago, my dad sent me a scrapbook he’d been keeping on me. I didn’t really go through it at the time. But while cleaning up after the flood at my house a week ago, I found it – thankfully, undamaged.
I cracked it open and took a long trip down Memory Lane yesterday. Please join me now in the Wayback Machine – and I promise there are some important current-day political lessons below.
First, I’d completely forgotten that my name first appeared in a newspaper way back in 1970 when I was 12-years-old. Not sure if it was the Baltimore Sun or the Baltimore News American, but the headline read: “Chuck Muth Wins Grand Prize.”
I won a “Superior Flash Printing Press.” I have no idea what the heck that was, but I must have wanted one pretty badly to enter the Hobby Club’s “Doggy Word Puzzle Contest.”
Of course, I’ve mastered the “printing press” invented by Al Gore on the Internet since then.
According to the article, the judges “agreed that Chuck’s was one of the five best from the points of view of neatness and originality, thus entitling him to one of the five national awards.”
Fast-forward to 1991. My dad had a copy of the first political letter-to-the-editor (LTE) I submitted to the Las Vegas Review-Journal related to the trouble being caused by the Culinary Union against the old Frontier Hotel & Casino.
At the time, I was running a small camcorder rental business to tourists and was getting hassles at union hotels.
And one of the Culinary’s union agitators was quoted in the paper as saying that if the nuclear power plant where Homer Simpson – of the animated comedy “The Simpsons” – went union, Homer “would be the first to join.”
“Well, let’s think about this. Homer comes to work late and skips out early. He sleeps on the job. He takes unlimited coffee and donut breaks. He has no pride in, or concern for, his work. He’s a fumbling, bumbling goof-off who is overpaid for what he does. When the plant’s workers were evaluated for efficiency, Homer was the first to be fired. I see your point.”
Remember, this was BEFORE I became active in politics and went to battle against Big Labor, including a “paycheck protection” initiative years later.
Then, at a Christmas party in 1993 at former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren’s house, I ran into the editor of weekly local newspaper.
We struck up a conversation and he invited me to bring some editorial balance to the paper by writing a weekly column – titled “Always Right” – from the conservative perspective. I *think* this was the first one…
Those columns caught the eye of then-Clark County GOP Chairman George Harris who recruited me to write press releases and newsletters for him in 1994.
In January 1995, George decided not to run for re-election and talked me into running. Surprisingly enough, we’re still BFF’s. 😊
I announced my candidacy on January 5, 1995. The election was held on January 17th at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino. I won on the second ballot, defeating longtime activists Greg Millspaugh and Jerry Winkler.
And it didn’t take me long to get in hot water.
On June 1st, just a week before Henderson’s “non-partisan” city council elections, I mailed out a letter to registered Republicans advising that one of the candidates in one of the races was a Democrat, incumbent Paul Ruth, who was being challenged by a Republican, Amanda Cyphers, and urged Republicans to vote for her.
Seemed like the right thing to do, right? A Republican organization urging votes for a Republican candidate. Well, Amanda went on to win the seat…but boy, the blowback was fast and furious.
“It (Muth’s letter) made me very angry,” Ruth told the Las Vegas Sun. “It was absolutely inappropriate.”
One Republican voter, Beth Doering, took out an ad in a Henderson newspaper that ran on Election Day stating she was “OUTRAGED” at me getting involved in “a non-partisan race.” Said she was “embarrassed and ashamed to call myself a Republican.”
And former Nevada Democrat Gov. Mike O’Callahan, then editor of the Las Vegas Sun, wrote…
“Muth’s last-minute missive to registered Republicans only, in support of Amanda Cyphers over Henderson Councilman Paul Ruth, had the flavor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor almost 54 years ago. … If anybody is keeping score on what happened in recent city races, then it’s GOP-3 and Democrats-0.”
In fact, one of our three victories in those elections included current Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, who knocked off incumbent Las Vegas City Councilman and former Oakland Raiders football player Frank Hawkins.
I wear all the criticism as a badge of honor. If I had to do it all over again, I would. There’s no such thing as a “non-partisan” race. At least not after I was done.
But we were just getting warmed up…
During that same time, we made voter registration a priority and worked hand-in-hand with then-Rep. John Ensign – who shocked everyone with his win in the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress – to change the numbers.
The month after June’s local primary elections, Steve Kanigher of the Las Vegas Sun reported…
“Nevada Republicans are gloating over an official tally showing them more than 800 registered voters ahead of the Democrats, the first time the GOP has led statewide since 1930.”
How did we do it? Read on…
A month later, then-Douglas County Republican Party Chairman John Mason was elected as the new Nevada Republican Party chair, replacing longtime state GOP boss Brian McKay.
Now, here’s where things really start to get interesting, especially as it relates to the current GOP presidential caucus-vs-primary brouhaha.
Shaun McKinnon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on the meeting where Mason was elected…
“Nevada Republican leaders voted Saturday to hold a presidential primary for the first time since 1980 but limit participation to registered party members. The state GOP central committee overwhelmingly approved the proposal to resurrect a statewide primary.”
A week later, Chairman Mason hired me to be the state party’s executive director. To which my ol’ buddy Jon Ralston, then a columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wrote…
“The GOP’s Chuck Muth makes the transition this week from the unpaid, thankless job of Clark County chairman to the paid, thankless job of the state party executive director. Southern Nevada Republicans will convene at the Showboat (Hotel) to find a replacement for Muth, who earned a reputation as a ready and willing rhetorical cannon, rarely loose and often on target.”
Coincidentally, at the same time the Republican Assembly Caucus hired Jerry Dorchuck to be its southern Nevada executive director.
Jerry and his wife, Felecia Dorchuck, were the original founders of Citizen Outreach a couple years earlier – the same non-profit organization I head today.
Felecia is still on the Board of Directors, along with Dan Burdish, who replaced me as executive director of the Nevada Republican Party after I resigned to run against then-Democrat State Sen. Dina Titus in ’96.
After my expected loss to Titus – who had a 3-1 Democrat voter registration advantage – I continued as a consultant to the Nevada GOP and worked with Dan to continue our voter registration program.
Dan’s always been a numbers guy while I’m a wordsmith. Together, we make a helluva team. And here are some lessons to take from our efforts back then…
Like today, election law had changed dramatically. Congress had passed the “motor voter” bill which allowed people to register at the DMV with a simple form. Republicans opposed the law…but it passed anyway.
With the rules changed, so did we.
Dan used new computer database technology to identify new residents in Nevada. We then – well, I’ll let Ralston explain it…
“Meanwhile, the Republican (voter registration) machine keeps on whirring – or should I say dialing. About 45 days ago, the local GOP began a nightly phone bank operation, contacting independents to try to turn them into converts.
“GOP Executive Director Chuck Muth says they have been making 50 to 100 calls a night ‘letting them know we’re having a presidential primary and that the Democrats aren’t.’ Muth said the callers also are informing the non-partisans that they aren’t allowed to vote in the presidential preference poll unless they register as Republicans.”
Those who indicated they wanted to make the party switch were mailed a pre-filled party-change “motor voter” registration form. Dan somehow figured out how to “mail merge” the voter data directly onto the form – which certainly wasn’t as easy 25 years ago as it is today.
All the voters had to do was sign and return it an enclosed postage-paid envelope.
We submitted so many Republican motor-voter registration forms that the then-Clark County Registrar of Voters threatened to sue me – until she realized we weren’t doing anything illegal.
We were just thinking outside the box and using the new law to our own advantage – something the Nevada GOP today hasn’t figured out when it comes to mail-in voting and ballot harvesting.
In fact, the volunteer program and messaging were so effective that we raised money to hire a professional call center out of San Diego – Competitive Edge – to take over the phone-banking.
And one of the main benefits of using Competitive Edge was that they already had a staff of bilingual callers who could deliver our message to Spanish-speaking voters in their own language.
Nothing like that had ever been tried before. At least by Republicans.
Going into the 1994 general election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Nevada by 11,520 voters.
By the 1996 general election, Republicans outnumbered Democrat by 4,211 voters.
In 2000, the party switched back to a presidential caucus – and the GOP voter registration lead was cut to 838.
It again became the minority party two months later, and today trails the Dems by 49,945 voters.
Now, despite the Legislature establishing a state-run presidential primary for February 6, 2024, the modern-day political geniuses at the Nevada GOP have decided to blow off the primary and instead hold a competing party-run presidential caucus two days later.
Which brings three old sayings to mind:
- Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it
- The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results
- You can’t fix stupid
Thanks for the memories, Dad. I’ll see you later this week. On to the next chapter…
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“Let’s be clear, we are not $32 trillion in debt because of one party. Republicans and Democrats are responsible for bankrupting our country – and we need a new sheriff in town.” – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis