Dr. Jack Lechelt recently interviewed the Executive Director of the Prince William County Republican Party, Dustin Howard. Check out the interview below!
Question (Q): You’re a NOVA student AND you’re the executive director of the Prince William County Republican Party. Where are you from and how did you get to northern Virginia?
Thank you for asking! I’m from a little town in the Missouri Ozarks. I’m here because my family business failed because of the housing market, and I spent 3 years out of work as a result. I came to Virginia for opportunity, and I’ve found it.
Q: What is your earliest political memory?
When I was about 5, I thought that the Democrats were the the good guys and the Republicans wore the black hats, largely because of my mom’s family. I also loved Abraham Lincoln, to the point of obsession. My older sister asked me one day what party I thought Honest Abe had belonged to, and I told her he was a Democrat. She delighted in telling me he was Republican, and I was aghast that my hero could be one of the of the black hats. Like Lincoln said, The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Q: What got you into politics? What caught your eye or interest?
Interestingly enough, it began on MSNBC. My other sister thought it would be a useful thing to turn on the news in hopes of keeping me in my books instead of in front of the TV. Most Republicans wouldn’t acknowledge it, but MSNBC used to be a pretty honest broker for political news around 2002. I would watch debate shows like Curtis and Kuby and Buchanan and Press, and I found myself identifying more with the conservative point of view. Ultimately, I am a product of the Bush era, and I evolved with much of the Republican electorate. We started ready to follow him to the gates of hell after 9/11, remained quiet about the excesses of Administration policy, and rebelled against them when policy became too much to defend. At first I wanted to join the Army, but a family tragedy forced me to reevaluate. I decided that if I couldn’t serve one way, maybe I could serve in another by working in politics.
Q: Who are some of your political heroes, what are some of your favorite political books, and what are some of your favorite political movies?
William F. Buckley, whose efforts and intellectual leadership at National Review shepherded the Conservative Movement into a viable political force. Andrew Breitbart, a man of great courage, if not composure. Last but not least, Mark Levin, who operates as a voice, albeit a loud one, for truth in a town where truth is negotiable.
As to movies, I love the classics. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington spoke to me early on. The funniest movie though would have to be 1,2,3, which was James Cagney’s last. It’s a cold war spoof that leaves nobody unscathed.
Q: What’s your experience in politics? Jobs held, including volunteer work?
I started as a less than humble blogger in 2009. After I moved to the DC metro area, I started by interning at a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group. This experience gave me my best intern stories, including being filmed by reporters in a robot suit :). From there, I did a internship at a small lobbying firm, which gave me a taste of life on the Hill. A lady from my church told me about a position at the Prince William County Republican Party, and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: Professionally, where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I hope to be working in Washington for the RNC, and would love to be someone who recruits candidates. We need effective, principled leaders, and it would help if the parties were more effective at finding them.
Q: What’s your dream job?
I would love to write. DC needs another talking head like Interstate 66 needs another bottleneck, but I would love to write satire about the things that go on in this town.
Q: What responsibilities does your current job entail?
Recruiting volunteers, managing our office, and planning events.
Q: How many people work full-time and part-time at the PWCGOP?
I’m the only paid staff. There are over 400 volunteers with varying degrees of involvement in the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges you confront in your job?
Association with Republicans that make public mistakes, pursuing new priorities because of funding, and the challenge that drives them all: voter complacency. Off-year elections are rather consequential, and in our system, the side that is most aware of that will win.
Q: If you wanted to make a case that things are looking good for the Republican statewide slate of candidates (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general), what do you see from your vantage point that makes their chances of winning look good?
Ken Cuccinelli enjoys more impassioned support than did Bob McDonnell, who was the benefactor of the Obama 2009 pushback. Ken is a member of my Committee and lives in Nokesville. He understands Northern Virginia, and is effective at deploying the resources needed to persuade independents that Virginians will come first in his Governorship.
Q: What is your opponents’ greatest assets?
There is little social cost in being associated with the Democratic party, mainly because they are very effective at defining how they are perceived in the American public.
Q: If you wanted to advise a NOVA student on how to get to your position, what career or education advice can you offer?
Familiarize yourself with the inner workings of campaigns as much as you can. Take advantage of grassroots training through organizations like the Leadership Institute. Any persuasive individual who is knowledgeable about that could do what I do, probably better than me.
By: Jack Lechelt, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science Northern Virginia Community CollegeThe opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the view of the NOVA Institute for Public Service or Northern Virginia Community College as a whole. All materials may be reprinted with permission, for more information please contact the IPS Coordinator.