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Berry, new GOP state chairman, envisions building party

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

Republican stalwarts at a party golf outing Monday wound up with more than their scores to celebrate. As they played the course at Chestnut Hills off Illinois Road, the leadership of the state GOP picked a local to be the state chair and slated the next state convention in Fort Wayne.

Tim Berry, whose first elected office was Allen County treasurer from 1991-1999, is the new state chairman. Since then, he’s served as state treasurer and state auditor. He came back to Fort Wayne for a visit with the faithful Monday evening -- about 75 people at the Chestnut Hills clubhouse.

“We’re going to prove here in Fort Wayne and Allen County that I’m not wasting political capital by bringing a convention here to this city, this county,” he told his fellow Republicans. “We’re going to show Republicans that we have new energy, new life. We’re going to show a broader party that is going to be necessary to win elections. And we’re going to bring excitement to help build that broader party right here in Allen County.”

That 2014 convention is tentatively scheduled for June 5-7 at the Grand Wayne Center, Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said Monday. Lobbying for the 2014 convention began weeks before the state committee awarded Fort Wayne the convention Monday.

Shine wants to raise $250,000 to help underwrite some expenses for some among the 2,000 or so delegates likely to attend. He’s well on the way. He said Monday evening that two of the city’s prominent Republicans -- Bill Bean and Bruce Dye -- already have pledged $150,000 to that hospitality fund.

As he has taken to saying recently, the Allen County chairman said again that the Fort Wayne state convention will be “cool, youthful and hip.”

Judging from the remarks of State Sen. President Pro Tempore David Long and Berry, focusing on tax cuts, economic dynamism and balanced budgets is crucial to broadening the party’s appeal. Neither delved into more emotionally loaded social issues, such as gay marriage or abortion.

Economic opportunity is a great story for Republicans to tell, and it’s a story that can play to a wider audience, Berry said. He said he would work to “build our grassroots network, reach out to voters who maybe have not been identified as Republicans in the past. We need to build a stronger base.”