August 25, 2012

Paul delegates not seated, LePage to skip convention

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The 20 Ron Paul supporters hoping to represent Maine as delegates to the Republican National Convention lost their appeal on Friday, prompting Gov. Paul LePage to skip next week's event and heightening tensions within the Maine GOP.

Paul LePage
click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage

Pat Wellenbach

"It is certainly going to come back on the party, and it is unfortunate," said Stavros Mendros, a Paul supporter in Tampa as part of Maine's convention delegation.

After weeks of discussion, members of the Republican National Committee voted overwhelmingly to deny seats to 10 pro-Paul delegates and fill them with 10 Mainers expected to support Mitt Romney. The other four delegates in Maine's 24-member delegation were not contested and are expected to support Romney.

On Friday, the RNC's Credentials Committee agreed with an earlier conclusion that Maine's delegate selection process was tainted by illegal votes and parliamentary violations. But many of the now-unseated Paul delegates and alternates are already in Tampa or are on their way south, resulting in two separate delegations from Maine.

Only now, half of the Paul supporters will be spectators rather than participants.

"A lot of them are new to the party, they are young and have a spent a lot of money to come down here. And now they can't get seated," said Brent Tweed, chairman of the Maine delegation and a Paul supporter.

The fight over Maine's delegates was part of a larger debate inside the RNC over how to accommodate Paul and his supporters at what is essentially a unity rally for Romney. A Texas congressman known for his libertarian views, Paul has a fraction of the delegates amassed by Romney.

Hayes Gahagan, chairman of the Aroostook County Republican Committee, was among the new Maine delegates making plans for Tampa. But even though his county caucus went for Paul, Gahagan said delegates supporting the congressman should play by the rules set worth by the RNC and focus on the "prime directive" of defeating Obama.

"We need to unify and we should accept this compromise," Gahagan said. "Send 10 Paul delegates, send 10 Romney delegates and let's get on with this convention and beat Barack Obama."

The RNC's decision to split the Maine delegation had immediate political repercussions, however.

LePage announced Friday morning that he would skip the convention because of the delegates dispute, even though the governor has said he supports Romney. LePage said he would, instead, pass the week focusing on "state business and spending some time with family."

"I made it clear, when the challenge was issued, that I felt the Maine delegates selected at the Maine convention should be seated in Tampa," LePage said in a prepared statement. "It is unfortunate that not all of these delegates will be seated."

Two Maine Republicans, Jan Staples and Peter Cianchette, had filed a formal challenge with the RNC against the 20 delegates, alleging a long list of procedural violations at May's state GOP convention.

William McGinley, a lawyer arguing on behalf of the delegate swap compromise, told RNC Credentials Committee members on Friday that the Maine convention was riddled with problems, including lax floor security and dubious identification of participants.

McGinley said Paul's supporters "shouldn't be able to benefit from this chaos," according to The Associated Press.

But John Logan Jones, an elected Paul delegate from Falmouth who lost his seat, said the decision was all about politics, not procedure. The experience cost Romney his vote, Jones said.

"It was pretty clear that they didn't care about the rules," Jones said after the meeting. "If it were a court of law, this whole thing would have been thrown out. But it wasn't a court of law. It was a kangaroo court."

(Continued on page 2)

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