AUGUSTA — Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, confirmed Thursday that he will not seek the leadership position when the state committee meets to elect new officers on Dec. 1.
“I very much appreciate having had the opportunity to serve as your chairman and to fight for the conservative principles that we hold dear,” Webster wrote in an email to Maine Republicans. “I much appreciate the support and friendships that have resulted in my tenure as the chairman and look forward to future election successes under the new party leadership.”
Webster, 57, said he expects that Gov. Paul LePage will nominate someone to serve as chairman for the next two years.
“I’m going to let the governor’s people speak about their desire to run the party,” Webster said in a phone interview Thursday. “The governor will put forward a candidate. I do not know who that will be. Two days after the  election, the governor’s people called me to say the governor wanted to run the party. I said, ‘That’s not going to happen.’”
Webster said he also expects that libertarian-leaning Republicans who supported Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy will submit a nomination for party chairman.
Chris Dixon, whose Undercover Porcupine blog appears on the BDN website, wrote that David Jones of Falmouth has expressed interest in the chairmanship. Outgoing state Rep. Rich Cebra of Naples, who could not seek re-election because of term limits, also has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
“The party should not be run by one person,” Webster said. “It has to be there for everybody. We have moderates, conservatives and libertarians whose interests should be represented.”
Webster pointed to 2010’s election of LePage and Republican majorities in the Maine House and Senate as a high point during his four years as chairman. It marked the first time since 1974 that Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature.
The GOP lost control of the Legislature as a result of Tuesday’s legislative elections.
He said the drastic increase in the influence of campaign spending during the past four years made it more difficult to attract legislative candidates.
Controversy marked Webster’s tenure as party chairman. His aggressive work to eliminate same-day voter registration and allegations that students attending college in Maine committed voter fraud elicited national attention. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau satirized him in a “Doonesbury” cartoon series.
His handling of the presidential preference caucuses earlier this year caused some Ron Paul supporters to call for his ouster. He also drew criticism for his handling of the state convention and for his attempt to broker a compromise between national party leaders and Ron Paul delegates to the national convention.
Prior to becoming Maine Republican Party chairman, Webster served 14 years in the Legislature, including as Senate minority leader during the 1991 impasse over workers compensation that shut down state government for 16 days. He served in the Senate for five terms and in the House for two.
“I always liked running for office better than serving,” he said. “This has been a great experience. I am really excited about the fact that we were able to double small donor lists in the four years I’ve been there. That is really the message I wanted to get out. People now know the GOP represents blue-collar workers. If we keep getting that message out, we’re going to win a lot more elections.”
The Farmington resident said he plans to help recruit Republican candidates for the Maine House and Senate. Webster did not rule out a future return to party leadership.