As summer begins and TBOR Action team members continue to deploy across our Republic, President John Pudner and National Field Director Byron Shehee began a tour of meetings and events across Alabama to discuss needed election rule reforms, how election operations need to evolve, and how grassroots activists can begin to help take back our Republic, starting in Montgomery with an in-depth, exclusive interview with WACV's Joey Clark.
To learn more about the work of the TBOR Action team, please click here.
The following transcript from this interview is presented in its entirety with minor edits:
Election integrity, win, rules, Alabama, ballot, Voter ID, Final Five.
TBOR Action President John Pudner, Joey Clark, and TBOR Action National Field Director Byron Shehee.
Joey Clark 00:00
Welcome into the program, folks. A lot to get to today, but it's great to kick off the show today with Take Back Our Republic Action. We have John Pudner. It's been years since we've seen each other, John, how are you?
John Pudner 00:12
Joey Clark 00:13
And just for folks who don't know...one thing I tell folks is you were the mastermind, if folks remember, Eric Cantor, getting upset by one Dave Brat. I know you were behind that, but you were also a big part of that takeover, the switch up, in 2010 with the Alabama legislature.
John Pudner 00:32
That's right. Alabama was starting with the lottery in 99', then beating Amendment One, and then became the Farmers Federation, Alpha's political director for a decade, so that was 168,000 door knocks in 2010, and that translate a few years later to this race against Eric Cantor up in Virginia - still living here, but shot up there - and that was a big upset.
Joey Clark 00:53
Now, were you always interested in electoral politics from when you're young to where you're like, "This is what I got to do?"
John Pudner 00:59
I started door-knocking when I was 12. We had a friend of the family who ran for office, and I just remember knocking, "Oh, this is great", my dad typed up some letter, and I've been stuck forever still doing it.
Joey Clark 01:10
So, when we look at how Alabama shifted...I don't know how to even begin the story, but the shift was already starting. I've written myself about when Shelby does that big switch in 94' after the Gingrich Revolution, but it still took another decade or two.
John Pudner 01:26
Democrats in Alabama weren't national Democrats. They held on for a while there are saying, "We're conservative, we're anti-tax too, we're pro-life too", and so in 06', we made some gains, but that was tough. That was my first cycle, and we picked some up, but it wasn't till 2010 when we really had the watershed and took the majority.
Joey Clark 01:43
Now, one thing I've been frustrated by in the state is we do have a Republican supermajority, but they don't seem to act like some of the other great Republican majorities around the nation. I mean, when you look at what's going on with these guys? I know your portfolio is more national these days....
John Pudner 02:00
Well, I won't judge individuals, but I will tell you there a lot of really conservative states where eventually everyone just starts running as a Republican, because they know that's how they can win. Again, that's not directed at anyone in particular, but that happens everywhere.
Joey Clark 02:02
And I told them, y'all can go to a closed primary system if you like, but I've already declared I'm voting for RFK Jr in the Democratic primary, and we'll see in the general what I decide, but I think that'd be too much fun voting for Robert Kennedt Jr. there. Now, you are working across the nation and really trying to help folks on the election integrity issue. When you look at all that happened in 2020, and as people are gearing for 2024, you're hearing, say, Trump and DeSantis, saying, "Well, we got to do the harvesting in the in the states where those are the rules", but when generally we discuss the issue of election integrity, what do you think is the gold standard? What's the ideal here?
John Pudner 02:57
Well, you still go back to the basics, which is Voter ID. I just think that's the foundation for everything. Do you accept that someone should have to present identification to vote? And from that, everything else builds. Utah does an incredibly good mail-in voting system because they have a signature match, and I tell you, if you try to sign for your wife on the outside of the sheet, they call you and say this is not your ballot, so you can adapt that to mail-in or other things, but just always having security. We want every legal vote counted. I mean, that should always be the criteria.
Joey Clark 03:27
And this actually, Voter ID, has pretty good bipartisan support.
John Pudner 03:30
It does, not within the two parties, but among people who would say they're Democrat or Republican. Our favorite comeback, and you had been a Breitbart editor for a while, but the favorite comeback on the Voter ID argument was, "Oh, you need a Voter ID to get into the Democratic National Convention. Are you going to waive that? Because we're happy to come and vote for someone else."
Joey Clark 03:52
Basic security requires you showing ID at a convention, or a bank, or if you're renting a car, or driving a car for that matter. It just seems a little much, and when you look at the polling, it's pretty astounding how voters across the board are like, "Yeah, this is a good idea."
John Pudner 04:07
It's about 70%, typically, across the board. Obviously a little lower among Democrats, but yeah, it's a clear majority.
Joey Clark 04:13
Now, a lot of this comes down....I think most controversies are in battleground states. For instance, when I look at Alabama, sometimes the margins are so big, why are we going to even look under the hood? We still should, but you know what I mean? But when you're winning elections by a few 10,000 votes, 70,000 votes, whatever the number is, that's when it really starts no matter how we're calling balls and strikes with elections. What do you think are some of the approaches that really destroy people's trust in our election?
John Pudner 04:44
Well, one reason, and I was still in Alabama until a year and a half ago and moved back to Wisconsin, I wanted to be in a battleground. I hate to say Alabama got a little boring as far as which party was winning, but yeah, some of the things there... I mean, the excuses that were used during COVID, they actually had ballot collection in state parks that were organized by localities in very blue cities, and it was weeks before you were allowed to start voting, so they were collecting votes this far ahead of time, getting support from Biden, etc. So, those are just the atrocious type things that can happen, where you're breaking the law to collect ballots, and then the problem is, then, you're in a bad spot, because you don't want to throw out 80,000 people who were told to vote this way, and say your vote doesn't count, I mean, I'm not for that, but at the same time, are you going to set this precedent?
Joey Clark 05:40
I've been saying ever since 2020 that I think they stole it fair and square. They really did change the rules in broad daylight, and not enough legislatures, or other players, push back enough. That's just my general assessment. I was never really on board with the whole Sidney Powell "Kraken" idea. I was friends with Sidney Powell, and said, "Sidney, if what you're alleging is actually true, that you have the highest bidders behind the scenes essentially bidding for votes, and it's all digitally manipulated, if that's true, do you really think you're going to have any chance to win in court If that's what you're dealing with?"
John Pudner 06:14
Absolutely. I've been pretty religious on saying "rigged" as opposed to "stolen". Rules were so toyed with for a desired outcome. The problem when you go down just the stolen path, for one, the whole middle hates the term, so they turn against any candidate who says stolen, so that's just impractical, but secondly, it just sets a whole different dynamic, and you hurt yourself. For example, all the people saying Georgia was stolen, people then were knocking on doors in Georgia, where one in five or so Republicans said, "I'm not vote because their gonna flip my vote anyway." So, what have you accomplished there? You've suppressed your own vote. So, it's just a bad strategy, and I don't think Sydney Powell's cases had merit, but there were others where things needed to be corrected, certainly.
Joey Clark 06:57
What are some of the wins of ours, as we ramp up to 2024? Have there been some victories across the nation in terms of getting election integrity rules in place?
John Pudner 07:09
There have. I mean, they've been tightening up, for example, translating the Voter ID stuff over to mail-in if you're going to start to do that for no excuse because most states have now gotten no excuse mail-in voting. It used to be you always had to have some reason, if you would be out of town, etc, and I think that's dangerous. Actually, it was very interesting on that front, because New York State liberals suddenly realized that New York state doesn't have no excuse voting, and they don't have same-day registration, things you have in most liberal havens, so, "It's stupid, but it's constitutional. Let's just go ahead and pass a referenda to have these two things." New Yorkers rejected both things, they got less than 40% because they thought that was so ripe for fraud. So, whenever I'm going to Wisconsin or someplace, where we're going to be accused of being racist, we then say, "Right now, your law is more liberal than New York's"
Joey Clark 07:56
Right! I think that there's a way to convince folks,. To me, it is crazy that you now have election season. Voting, to me, is already one of the more passive ways you engage. I know it's important, but I mean, you could run for office, which would be, I think, the most active, you can put a bunch of money behind someone, so to take what is already fairly passive, you just got to show up on a day, and then essentially have somebody who's almost...you're not allowed to, but filling it out for you, and really hounding you, "Hey, did you vote yet? Did you vote it? Well, here, I've got this, you can fill it out", that seems like you're not getting active, knowledgeable voters. It seems like it's like a vote bank almost.
John Pudner 08:36
It is. There was an interesting Los Angeles race during COVID that actually flipped for Republican once there were rules in place, and the reason it was is all the Democrat voting operations were going into nursing homes and collecting ballots from people. Well, ironically, because of COVID, they couldn't go to nursing homes, and Republicans won the seat they never won before. Sort of a strange twist on events!
Joey Clark 08:58
Now, when you look at the Republican world, is the GOP really gearing up to either get sound election integrity rules put in place, or if you're looking at Arizona, if you're looking at Pennsylvania, and you can't change the rules to something better, people you got to play the game, right?
John Pudner 09:17
They have, and you've actually finally had even Trump say a couple things on how we have to win by the rules for playing in order to change them. I'm paraphrasing a little there. And a big breakthrough for us was...I was on Breitbart Radio in 2020 saying, "Republicans have to do mail-in or you'll lose", I mean, it was like, saying, "Hey, you know, I don't think we'll probably the first half, let's go down 35-0 and win it all in the second half", because half the voting was happening early, and they just weren't participating. So, you're gonna have to play by the rules, and to have Kari Lake, who we're having in Milwaukee this week, come out and say her big focus now is promoting mail-in voting. She was the biggest opponent of mail-in voting and you're just not gonna win if you don't play the rules.
Joey Clark 09:57
What do you make happened on election day in Arizona? Because I was a big Blake Master's fan, I thought Kari Lake was a rock star, especially in interviews, but the fact that things were kind of shut down in certain polling places. I just...
John Pudner 10:10
Now, that was certainly uneasy, I don't want to pretend that I was an expert or on the ground there because sometimes things happen, and sometimes they intentionally happen, you just don't know what happened, but it was tough. I mean, everywhere in the country, the Dobbs decision did hurt Republicans. They're so in being 100% pro-life, but the day that Roe is overturned, you're gonna have to make some exception, and that just became a war, and when your own parties warring with each other, you have a bad day.
Joey Clark 10:35
Again, folks. We're talking to John Pudner, the President of Take Back Our Republic Action. Also, how rude of me, Byron Shehee is here with Take Back Our Republic Action.
Byron Shehee 10:45
Joey Clark 10:45
You're the one who set this whole conversation up, I apologize for keeping it quiet,
Byron Shehee 10:50
Joey. I'm just taking notes.
Joey Clark 10:51
All right, well, It's good seeing you. I got to pick your brain with your expertise on this. As we head into 2024, what should folks be looking out for in terms of the battleground states, and how do you think this whole election wave is going to shake out?
John Pudner 11:05
Yeah, you know, it's still down the middle here. I mean, this is going to be tight. I do think, in the end, Trump has trouble in the states where he contested - Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin - those just become tough, because, again, people don't like hearing stolen, so I think that would be the biggest challenge if he were the nominee is really those three states. How do you get them back in? But, you know, it's a close race, and obviously, the NBC poll, whatever you account for polls, but it was really interesting, saying 68% think Biden is basically incompetent shouldn't run again, and then you click on the poll results, and he's winning by four. I mean!
Joey Clark 11:49
I think the American people might be a little incompitent there. My goodness! I've been saying I think Trump is a shoe-in for the nomination, but do you think, DeSantis, I guess, is the only one in striking distance...
John Pudner 12:03
Yeah, and even that, I mean, it is quite a lead. I mean, if you just look at polling, I have to believe people keep getting in going, "I just don't know how all this indictment stuff plays out. Is there a chance?" So, there's that one. Do things blow up and suddenly it's wide open if he, somehow, is not in the race, or, of course, the appointment angle is always a big one, you know, if I don't beat him up too bad.
Joey Clark 12:24
It just seems like...I'm worried that it's gotten a little nasty, though, already. Like, we're only in June. We're not even in July, and when I watched the Twitter flame wars between Trump folks and DeSantis folks, just those folks, it's pretty nasty. Do you see this sort of thing behind the scenes where it gets pretty cutthroat?
John Pudner 12:44
It's terrible. I mean, partisan primaries kills so many nominees, and I didn't used to feel this way, but we started talking about this Final Five idea, where you actually keep your top five candidates on the ballot in the end, so if one Republican beats another 47-44 like we had in Wisconsin last year, and everyone ends up tearing up themselves, because there's no tomorrow if you don't win August 10, well, then you're beating up going in against the other nominee, you know, who has had a coronation, and that's what everyone Wisconsin. That was probably a winnable race, and then outside groups control advertising, so it was not even like, Tim Michels, who was the nominee, he didn't run an ad with a Chinese flag behind his opponent, Rebecca Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker's Lieutenant Governor, but it was run, so people were resentful, and then they don't show up, so it's a problem, and the tenure right now on the nomination is tough.
Joey Clark 13:38
Well, in a second, I want to get into kind of practical things voters can do, how they can support your organization, and I gotta get a break here in a second as well, but this just came to my mind, I got to ask about it. With this revolution in AI, for instance, the DeSantis campaign shared on Twitter a bunch of photos, some real during the COVID era, but some were straight up artificial intelligence of Trump kissing Dr. Fauci and whatnot, and hugging him, and stuff, like as guys who are in the in the campaign world, because this stuff looks real, It's photo real, but it's fake, I mean, I don't know how I feel about this...
John Pudner 14:12
It's funny. Byron and I were talking about once when he ran an ad proving that someone had given to Obama, who was running in a Republican primary, and even several years ago, people assumed it was doctored.
Joey Clark 14:26
And it's like virtual reality is melting. There is no reality in virtual reality...
Byron Shehee 14:33
It's what the voters really want to believe. Everything is reinforced at this point.
Joey Clark 14:38
Yeah, it's almost that the pretense of persuasion has been dropped in a lot of ways. I'm thinking of most recently RFK Jr., Joe Rogan, and that Peter Hotez character to where, "If you're not prestigious, if you're not establishment, I don't have to talk to you. I don't even have to debate my ideas wven if there's a platform", and to me, it's like that is persuasion. Your job is not to, if you're Peter Hotez, to persuade RFK or Rogen, it's to persuade the millions of people watching, and yet folks balk at that, and I guess you're seeing that in electoral politics.
John Pudner 15:09
That's definitely happening. You're right on it.
Joey Clark 15:11
Is there a way folks, if they're hearing about y'alls efforts for election integrity, how they can help take back our Republic?
John Pudner 15:18
If you go to takebackaction.org, that's C4, so the action things we can do, things that are a little more hard hitting politically, takebackaction.org. One thing I was just gonna let you know on the air today is we're going to start setting up training around the state of Alabama for people either want to be candidates, want to learn to work professionally on campaigns, or want to be voter observers. Three different classes. We just started using Wisconsin several months ago, I mentioned the move up there from here a couple years ago was because there were tighter races and all, but they've been such a success, hundreds of people signing up, and so, we're gonna start doing them around the state, Byron Shehee and I, and some other experts, so if you want to get more involved,any of your listeners out there, please takebackaction.org, and we'll follow-up. First thing, we'll ask you.
Joey Clark 16:02
Well, now I'm just interested in the sense of it's like a candidate school, but then also, if somebody wants to learn, say , the X's and O's of polling, and how to breakdown districts, and different precincts, they could do that.
John Pudner 16:13
We generally break it into candidate or the other because a lot of candidates just don't work because they're nervous, like they want to know have a file, but not look stupid, like, what are the forms? So, there's some basic you can cover right off the bat. Obviously, we also want to cover, "Oh, and by the way, you do have to knock on doors and call people and ask for money." So there are so just let me see if you're a real candidate here type of things.
Joey Clark 16:35
Do you like people?
John Pudner 16:36
Yes, that's right. There was one candidate, who will go unnamed, who got mad at me for putting a magnetic bumper sticker on their car, and I thought, some negative reaction, and I was told, "Terrible idea, worse idea I've had, never do that again," and I said, "What's the problem? Are you getting flipped off?" "No, everyone talks to me, like I get gas, and people talk to me! And I'm like, "Those are voters!"
Joey Clark 17:02
Oh, my goodness. I think this is a great idea, and it has been too long when it comes to Alabama politics in particular. Whenever y'all are back in the state, let me know. I'd love to talk to y'all and kick around ideas and issues.
John Pudner 17:16
Would love to, and this is what I did for the decade with Alpha, we went out and found candidates, trained them all. We've have some good success.
Joey Clark 17:26
Folks, if you're interested, check out Take Back Our Republic Action today. What's the website, again?
John Pudner 17:30
It's takebackaction.org. So, just first two words, then action.org.
Joey Clark 17:35
Takebackaction.org. I appreciate it, John and good seeing you, Byron.
Byron Shehee 17:39