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Growing up, Rep. Greg Walden was a Boy Scout.
He worked hard and earned badge after badge, finally accruing the highest honor: Eagle Scout.
The Oregon lawmaker earned a new title on Wednesday: chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
He takes the reins of the organization — which took the House majority in 2010 and kept it in 2012 — from a fellow Eagle Scout, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions.
And Walden plans to drive the organization forward on the path that Sessions has cemented over two terms.
“Pete’s been this transformational figure,” Walden said in an interview. “Transforming this organization into something it’s never been before. My goal is to build on that foundation.”
Walden has been Sessions’ key deputy since the Texan took over the then-moribund committee in 2008. Two years later the committee oversaw an operation that netted the GOP the House majority and gave John A. Boehner of Ohio the speakership.
In every important meeting, Sessions said, “I sat at the end of the table. Right next to me: Greg Walden. Right next to me, every decision we made.”
In a 40-minute interview with Roll Call on Tuesday, Sessions and Walden showed an easy rapport. They were on the same page on every issue, peppered their ideas with bits of Boy Scout wisdom and finished each other’s sentences.
“We talk about —” Sessions began.
“— leaving your campsite better than you find it,” Walden completed.
“Yeah,” Sessions said. “Literally leaving your campsite better, and we apply that to our job here.”
“Pretty good philosophy,” Walden added.
They both explained how the NRCC had been built over the past four years to be a metric-driven, member-oriented, business-like, professional organization.
Walden recounted that the previous model was more solely command-and-control with a “good strong chairman and a staff.”
He said that giving more members more responsibility has helped GOP lawmakers have a sense of ownership and connection to the NRCC that has made it better.Vision for 2014
Beyond continuing to fine-tune the organization, Walden outlined a bullish vision for 2014.
“Our goal is to add to seats. It is every time,” he said.
Walden explained what makes the 2014 and subsequent cycles different: The decennial process of redistricting is complete. He said he expects the committee will be able to continue to play offense.