By K.J. WEBB
CHAIRMAN AND SENATOR: Oklahoma Republican State Party Chairman Matt Pinnell, left, with Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe at the Oklahoma Republican Party Convention in Oklahoma City May 4. While in college at ORU, Pinnell interned in Sen. Inhofe’s Tulsa office. Both are from Tulsa.
GTR Newspapers photo
Tulsan Matt Pinnell made history in June 2010 when, at 30, he became the youngest state party chairman in the nation. Moreover, Republican National Committee () Chairman Reince Priebus recently appointed Pinnell chairman over the nation’s state party chairmen.
Pinnell is well-equipped for the job. He brings over a decade’s worth of political experience including Congressional campaign management, lobbying in D.C., government affairs, grassroots activism and political training.
Pinnell’s passion for politics began in high school. He says, “After serving as student council president in high school (at Tulsa’s Metro Christian), I started to ask myself what I was good at, and where I could make an impact. I realized I was interested in politics and this interest grew during college.”
Pinnell attended where he majored in PR/advertising, minored in government, played competitive tennis (including the state championships), and coached tennis at Philcrest while increasing his political activities. “During college I interned in Senator Inhofe’s Tulsa office. It was a great experience and further motivated my interest in politics.”
This motivation took the form of running Scott Pruitt’s 2001 congressional campaign right after college, followed by working on Steve Largent’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Pinnell says, “Working on those 2001 and 2002 campaigns was an excellent experience in grassroots politics. Realizing I could make an impact at the grassroots level led me to get more directly involved.” This resulted in a move to Washington, D.C.
“My time in D.C. was productive and instructive,” says Pinnell. “I worked for an auto dealers association in the government affairs department, which provided me with lobbying experience. After that, I ran a Political Action Committee for an orthopedics surgeons group.”
Pinnell says working in D.C. provided an excellent opportunity to learn about regulatory affairs, regulation and ways it impedes business growth, as well as medical malpractice and tort reform. “These are important issues, and still very relevant today,” he says.
Pinnell took a leave of absence from his job in D.C. to return to Tulsa in 2004 to help manage Tom Coburn’s Northeast Oklahoma “Get Out the Vote” operation. “They asked me to stay in Tulsa and continue working here. However, I wanted to get a little more experience in D.C., so my wife and I returned to Washington for a year-and-a-half before coming back to Oklahoma in 2006.”
Pinnell gained additional campaign management experience running Scott Pruitt’s 2006 campaign for Lt. Governor. “Running Scott’s campaign in 2006 enabled me to meet activists across the state, county chairmen and others. So, after the ‘06 campaign I started helping the Republican Party, working with Gary Jones, the director of the state party in 2007 – 2008.”
Pinnell’s grassroots activities led him to a position with American Majority, a 501c3 organization that trains grassroots activists. This was followed by his historic 2010 appointment as State Chairman. Pinnell states the platform succinctly: small, less-intrusive government, a strong national defense, lower taxes and protection of life.
When asked what he considers the main challenge facing the in Oklahoma and nationally, Pinnell says, “Not getting lackadaisical! We can’t rest on our laurels. We’re in a very strong position right now, and my job here in Oklahoma is to get more people involved and keep people active. We’ve got to stay aggressive, increase and keep up our momentum. This is vital to our success as a party.”
Part of Pinnell’s strategy is an aggressive push for voter registration and youth outreach. “This is a year-round, extremely important activity,” he says adding, “Anyone can help with this. We need people to help set up voter registration drives and get involved with emerge46.”
The youth outreach program emerge46.com (46 for 46th state in the union) is focused on strengthening the emerging young conservative demographic, connecting them with College Republican Clubs, Young Republican Clubs, and activities. “We’re seeing a lot of energy in the emerging conservative movement,” Pinnell says. “We’ve got to do what we can to support them and help them get connected and strengthen their grassroots activities and outreach.”
Another ongoing priority Pinnell is continually focused on is fundraising. “Every state party chairman spends time fundraising, across all levels. Every donation, whether it’s $10,000 or $10, or $5, helps. I don’t think people realize how much their time, and even a $5 donation makes in the GOP’s success.”
Describing what it’s like to be the youngest state chairman in the nation, Pinnell says, “I consider it an advantage. I can communicate with and relate very well to the younger generation, including college students. They see me as a peer. I think this is a distinct advantage as we are working to strengthen this demographic.”
He adds, “I’m not hindered by my age. Fortunately, I’ve gained a lot of experience over the years, and learned from great people.” Pinnell mentions Scott Pruitt as one example, “Scott has become a valuable mentor. He’s competitive; he competes on his ideas. He does not water down his principles, ideas or beliefs. He lets the ‘marketplace decide’. I respect this.”
When asked what, specifically, individuals need do to be effective in strengthening the Oklahoma , Pinnell says, “Get involved and stay involved. Check out our websites. Call your local party headquarters. There are lots of ways to get active. People actively participating in the party is key. If people get complacent, we lose. If people get involved, at any level, and stay active, we’ll keep winning. It’s that simple.”
To learn more, visit www.okgop.com, www.emerge46.com and www.tulsagop.org.
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