The 76 Project helped organize a candidate forum for the Rexburg City Council candidates on Saturday, October 23. The Madison County Republican Women (MCRW) originated the idea and as the Founder of The 76 Project, I was asked to help and “co-emcee” with Randy Sutton, Chair of the Madison County Republican Central Committee.
The forum was designed to be fun and candidate friendly. To make sure the candidates were properly prepared, they were sent most of the questions earlier in the week. On Friday, the day before the event, six of the nine candidates withdrew claiming “perceived bias” by The 76 Project. This quickly became a much bigger story than I ever imagined.
Over the last couple of days The 76 Project has been labeled a “right wing extreme group” and described as “this is what’s wrong with politics.” The candidates who withdrew have been called “cowards” and nicknamed “The Secret Six.” None of these characterizations are true.
The 76 Project is not a “red group” or “blue group,” but a “red, white & blue group” dedicated to Conservative American Values, looking to build bridges and create respectable dialogue around things which are important to our community.
I NEVER dreamed I would be put in this position of mild controversy. In the spirit of mutual understanding and for the sake of our common ideals, I’m writing to clear-up misconceptions and erase any barriers this sudden controversy has created.
My grandparents taught me that before you can be understood you must try to understand. From the six candidate’s perspective, The 76 Project is very new, they don’t know me, and we got involved midway through the process. It appears the actions of others were mistakenly attributed to The 76 Project, as there are many groups pushing all kinds of ideas it’s understandable they would be skeptical of our involvement and I recognize how this could create confusion. I’ve also seen a comment or two regarding MCRW members contributing to council candidates, in my mind this is a non-issue. The forum was professional and fair, just as I’m sure the Rexburg Chamber Forum will be professional and fair even though one of the candidates sits on their Board of Directors. I don’t “perceive bias” in either situation.
To be clear, even though I’ve been asked, I have not donated to any of the candidates. Who wins is not as important to me as a good open dialogue and a free, fair exchange of ideas. In politics we focus so much on the result we don’t put enough emphasis on the journey.
On Friday, I met with one of the six candidates. It was a great opportunity to share our perspectives, and I frankly believe the assumptions made about The 76 Project are untrue. But even with that, I understand how they came to some of those conclusions, and in fairness they had limited information.
Do I think they should have attended the forum? Absolutely! A lot of time, effort and money was spent to create an impactful and quality event. I personally like things like this, and it was fun to help the MCRW organize the event. It was well-planned and very fair.
Despite the six candidates withdrawal we decided to move forward with the forum. Randy Sutton stuck with us and we had a fantastic time. Randy was great, the candidates were great, and we had great audience interaction. I believe anybody who came would agree.
All things considered it was an exceptional night and I was grateful to meet so many wonderful, involved citizens. A big shoutout to Steve Gentile, from Madison Jr. High for helping us with the facility. Many who attended said would’ve loved to have heard from the other candidates. With limited opportunities to hear from all the candidates in one place, it would’ve been an absolute homerun for them.
I will not apologize for any bias or unseemly conduct because there was none. If The 76 Project or myself offended any of the candidates, I sincerely apologize and extend an olive branch to them. If there is something about myself or The 76 Project which makes you uneasy, please let me know. Open communication will only make us better.
I talked briefly on the phone with a few of the candidates and I sincerely look forward to meeting them in person. I wish them nothing but good luck in their campaigns. Rexburg is a great place, in part because of the willingness of these candidates to serve on our councils. We all want what’s best for our city.
We will post the video of the forum in the next couple days and you can better judge for yourselves how it was organized. Our goal was to help the community get to know the candidates through an open discussion. As you watch the video, I think you’ll see we accomplished our goal.
The 76 Project is not looking for controversy but a discussion of ideas, a union of common goals and a better place for us all to live.
I want to make a particular mention of Luke Walker who was unable to attend because of a military commitment. We hope everyone looks at the candidates and gets involved in our government. Power in the People can only be maintained by our involvement.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
All our best,
Founder of The 76 Project