By Ron VandenBoom
Joe Briggs, the president of the National Pachyderm Federation, told the Havre Pachyderm chapter Friday that their mission is education and not support or assaults on specific issues.
"We are in the business of education," Briggs said. "We are not in the business of spot assaults on a specific issue."
In his first appearance in Havre since his election as the National president, Briggs told the Pachyderms the job of the club is not to press the specific agenda of any candidate, but "to enlighten the rest of the public about what the Republican Party is and how we develop our positions."
"And to demonstrate to them that the Republican Party ... is really the one that represents them," he added. "The more people who see the Republican philosophy for what it is, the more people will vote Republican."
Misconceptions over who Republicans are have caused many to think the party only consists of people who live in castles on the hill, Briggs said.
"I don't see any of these people who live in castles sitting in this room," he said. "The reality is that most Republican households are solid middle-income households."
Briggs explained that Pachyderm meetings provided a relaxed, open, and informal atmosphere, where topical guest speakers can provide information, and answer questions that, because of the type of questions asked, will naturally bring out the Republican philosophy without guests feeling intimidated or like they are attending a political rally.
Briggs also emphasized that the Republican Party "has really come to recognize the importance of the Pachyderm clubs" because they provide a direct link to the people and provide them with forums in where they can espouse their views.
Briggs referred to the relatively young national Pachyderm organization as "a budding organization" and explained that it is currently in a growth pattern. He acknowledged that for the first time it is deliberately working to establish itself in all 50 states.
"For a long time we kind of grew by osmosis," Briggs said. "That is, when somebody from an existing club moved they would start a club in their new town."
The young age of Pachyderm Clubs nationally has not provided much at the local level for dues-paying members, Briggs admitted, but he admonished the Havre members to remember that they are "investing in a concept -- you're investing in the idea," he said.
Briggs told the Havre club that the next election for the Montana Legislature will be one of the most important ever because 33 members of the House of Representatives will be "term-limited-out" and it is estimated that there will be 50 open seats up for grabs. The Senate will see about 12 of the 25 seats normally up for reelection vacated by term-limits.
"There are going to be more candidates in need of more resources than you ever imagined in your life," he said, noting that Pachyderms is an excellent venue for helping candidates get the word out without costing the campaign a lot of money.
Briggs, the owner of a computer networking, analysis, and consulting business in Great Falls, was a founding member of the Great Falls Pachyderm Club in 1986 and currently serves as the president of that organization as well. He was elected to the position of national president at the national convention in St. Louis, Mo., in September.
The next national convention is scheduled to be held in Great Falls on Aug. 17, 2001, Briggs told the Pachyderms.