LEWISTON — A Maine Republican Party committeeman is calling for a special meeting to hash out the widening rift over sending Ron Paul delegates to the national convention.
Jonathan Pfaff of Cumberland has petitioned party Chairman Charlie Webster of Farmington to call the meeting in response to the party's national committeewoman seeking to disqualify the Paul supporters from participating in the convention Aug.27-30 in Tampa.
National committeewoman Jan Staples and Peter E. Cianchette, a former GOP candidate for governor in Maine, filed a written complaint in July with the national Republican Committee asking that all but one of Maine's delegates — Gov. Paul LePage — be disqualified from participation at the national convention.
Staples and Cianchette, chairman of Romney's campaign in Maine, allege in their request that the Paul supporters were elected illegally and that procedural rules were not followed at the state convention.
The Sun Journal on Friday obtained a copy of Pfaff's letter to Webster, in which Pfaff stated that party rules require Webster to call the meeting if he is petitioned by at least 16 party members. Attached to Pfaff's letter were the signatures of 23 state party members asking for such a special meeting.
"It is with great sadness and humility that I am calling a special meeting of our body," Pfaff wrote. "I thought that we had finally begun healing after the convention. I thought we were ready to move on, work out our differences and strengthen our party in the House and Senate."
Pfaff also called for Staples' resignation.
"(Staples) has decided to put her own personal agenda ahead of Maine Republicans," he wrote. "Some have argued she's done this out of spite for her unsuccessful bid to be re-elected. Some have argued that she's being offered a deal by Mitt Romney's campaign. Others have argued that her hope is to completely undo the entire convention process for a chance to retain her position for the next (election) cycle."
Pfaff's letter calls for the state committee to vote on several resolutions, including one that would support seating at the Tampa convention all delegates elected at the state convention.
In a message accompanying his letter and a copy of the resolutions, Pfaff wrote that Webster had agreed to call a meeting and was working on securing a venue in Augusta.
"Charlie gave me the OK to send this to the rest of the committee while he is working on finding a venue for the meeting," Pfaff wrote. "He will inform us as soon as possible when it has been secured."
But when contacted by phone Friday, Webster said the dust-up was "not a story" and, "we don't need this drama."
He said behind-the-scenes negotiations were ongoing and that he believed the Maine Republican Party would resolve its differences over the delegates to the national convention, "within the next 72 hours."
Paul's supporters in Maine staged a takeover of the state convention in May, wresting power in a series of contentious votes from establishment GOPers, including Webster.
The Paul supporters elected a slate of state delegates to the national convention.
Webster and LePage have said they support seating all of the state delegates at the national convention. The Maine Republican Party's national committeeman, Rick Bennett of Oxford, also supports allowing the delegates to be seated.
Asked Friday whether the compromise he was working on would allow the Paul delegates from Maine to be seated at the national convention, Webster said, "I don't think I know at this point."
He said state party rules require him to hold a special meeting within 25 days if he is petitioned by at least 16 committee members to do so, and that his intention was to follow the party's rules.
Seating Maine's Paul delegates in Tampa could decide whether the Texas congressman is given a chance to address the convention formally for 15 minutes. National Republican Party rules require a candidate to receive the support of at least five states for that to happen.
As it stands, Paul has the support of the majority of delegates from Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and Utah. His campaign also is challenging the results of state conventions in Massachusetts, Louisiana and Oregon in hopes of seating delegates from those states at the national convention.
Pfaff's message to Webster and Maine Republican Committee members
I submitted this letter with the support of 23 fellow committee members yesterday to our officers. Charlie gave me the ok to send this to the rest of the committee while he is working on finding a venue for the meeting. He will inform us as soon as possible when it has been secured. Please carefully consider these words and the resolutions and decide what example we will be setting as the Republican party leaders moving forward. I hope everyone understands the gravity of this situation and will do their best to attend the meeting whether in agreement or disagreement.
Fellow Maine Republican State Committee Members,It is with great sadness and humility that I am calling a special meeting of our body. I thought that we had finally began healing after the convention. I thought we were ready to move on, work out our differences and strengthen our party in the House and Senate.Unfortunately, our National Committeewoman, Jan Staples, has other priorities. She has decided to put her own personal agenda ahead of Maine Republicans. Some have argued she's done this out of spite for her unsuccessful bid to be re-elected. Some have argued that she's being offered a deal by Mitt Romney's campaign. Others have argued that her hope is to completely undo the entire convention process for a chance to retain her position for the next cycle.Regardless of her reasons, the job of a National Committeewoman is to create unity not division; to bring representation, not isolation; to bring positive public opinion, not embarrassment. This complaint that she has filed is insulting to the entire body and leadership of Maine Republicans as well as one of the RNC's top parliamentarians. As an example of Ms. Staples sentiments, she was recently quoted in the Portland Press Herald as saying, "For us, it's trying to get back control of our party." Who exactly is she trying to get back control from? We are all Republicans.At this special meeting, I urge you to support the attached resolutions. Personal gain does not take precedence over the success of our party and the success of our country. We hold our elected officers to the highest code of conduct and should bring them to accountability when they have violated them. If you would like to show your support before the meeting, please print, sign, fax and email the signature to me and I will forward it on to Chairman Webster.Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.Sincerely,Jonathan PfaffCumberland Committeeman