August 20, 2013

Seven members of Maine Republican State Committee leave party

A national committee member joins other Mainers who say that conservatives are ignored.

By Kevin Miller
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – One of Maine's three voting members of the Republican National Committee and six other members of the Maine State Republican Committee have resigned and left the party, lambasting Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans for abandoning what they said are key principles for libertarians and conservatives.

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Mark Willis, Republican National Committeeman for Maine, and 11 others have quit the party.

2013 Kennebec Journal File Photo / Joe Phelan

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Resignation letter from Maine GOP members

The seven party activists were among 12 people who wrote a scathing letter to a state Republican official Sunday listing their grievances.

They criticized Republican state lawmakers for supporting a budget containing tax increases, charged Boehner with "cowardly leadership" and said recent decisions by the LePage administration show that "the Republican Party has lost its way."

"(We) can no longer allow ourselves to be called nor enrolled as Republicans; we can no longer associate ourselves with a political party that goes out of its way to continually restrict our freedoms and liberties as well as reaching deeper and deeper into our wallets," reads the letter, signed by Maine Republican National Committeeman Mark Willis and 11 others. "We instead choose the path that focuses on ways to help our fellow Mainers outside of party politics."

The decision by Willis and the others to "unenroll" from the Maine Republican Party reflects continuing discord among Republicans in Maine and nationally as the party tries to rebuild after stinging losses in last year's elections.

The state party's new chairman, former state Sen. Rick Bennett, said Monday that he respects but regrets the 12 members' decision to drop their Republican affiliation.

"I regret losing them from the party, but our party remains a very broad party," said Bennett, who was elected as chairman last month and is one of three official representatives from Maine to the Republican National Committee.

The dozen disenchanted Republicans listed a litany of grievances in their letter to the secretary of the Maine Republican Party, Chuck Mahaleris, including:

Anger over rule changes adopted during the Republican National Convention in Tampa last year.

Congressional Republicans' support for the National Security Agency surveillance programs publicly revealed in recent months and for immigration reform, online-sales taxes and gun control.

Maine Republican lawmakers' failure to block enactment of a state budget that includes tax increases.

LePage's vetoes of several bills that were important to libertarians -- including those restricting the use of surveillance drones and allowing wider sales of raw milk – and the LePage administration's "atypical meddling in the business of the Maine State Committee."

LePage vetoed the state budget that the Legislature passed in June but was overridden.

The members of the Maine State Republican Committee who resigned are: Willis, of Washington County, and his wife, Violet; Thomas Barry of Androscoggin County; Ann-Marie Grimes Grenier of Cumberland County; Gregory Hodge of Lincoln County; Olga LaPlante of Cumberland County; and Russell Montgomery of Knox County.

The five other Republicans who said they are withdrawing from the party are: Sam Canders, Bryan Daugherty and Maria Hodge of Penobscot County; and Scott and Debbie D'Amboise of Androscoggin County.

Canders ran against Bennett for chairman of the Maine Republican Party last month and had the support of several of those who resigned Sunday.

Willis briefly challenged national party Chairman Reince Priebus for that post earlier this year. Scott D'Amboise ran for U.S. Senate last year.

There are conflicting views -- in Maine and nationally -- about the Republican attempts to be a "big tent" party able to grow with younger, more diverse voters.

(Continued on page 2)

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