Governor’s Rep. Accuses Party Chair of Power Grab
Dan Billings, chief counsel to Governor Paul LePage and his representative on the Maine Republican Party State Committee, published a note on Facebook on Saturday accusing GOP Chair Charlie Webster of attempting a “naked power grab” in order to maintain his control over party infrastructure.
In the post, which has since been deleted but which I've copied here, Billings claims that Webster has drafted a set of by-law amendments to be voted on at the next State Committee meeting to be held in Aroostook County later this month that include adding six new voting members to the committee appointed by the chair, preventing sitting legislators from holding party offices and making it more difficult to pass future amendments to the by-laws.
“If the State Committee is not meeting again for months, why the rush to add new members? The answer is obvious: Webster thinks this will help him get re-elected in December.
In addition to the committee stacking scheme, Webster proposes to reduce his potential challengers in future elections by banning state legislators from serving as officers of the committee. This exact same proposal was rejected by the State Committee in November of 2011. Why is it being proposed again now? I think it is no coincidence that a current legislator has been suggested by many as a possible replacement for Webster.
The final proposal – making it more difficult to amend the by-laws in the future – is the most offensive. With only a week’s notice, major changes in the structure of the State Committee are proposed for consideration at what is likely to be a lightly attended State Committee meeting and, on top of that, it is proposed that the by-laws be amended to make it practically impossible to amend them again before Party Officers are elected in December. The arrogance and lust for power of the people behind this idea is stunning.”
Webster and LePage, both strong personalities, have been scrapping for control of the party apparatus since the Governor’s election in 2010. There have been plenty of rumors of behind the scenes maneuvering by the two sides and even of an aborted coup attempt against Webster by LePage’s allies several months ago. The feud has never been pushed into the public eye like this before, however.
Even after his outlandish claims during the same-day registration referendum last year and what was seen as a failure of organization and leadership during the recent Republican caucuses and convention, Webster apparently maintains the support of much of the party’s old guard, including his former vice chair and current Secretary of State and U.S. Senate Candidate Charlie Summers.
LePage, despite a series of statements and actions that have caused some Republicans in the Legislature to distance themselves from his administration, maintains the firm support of the Tea Party and Ron Paul wings of the party, which is where much of the GOP’s current grassroots energy resides.
The results of this clash will almost certainly determine Webster’s political fate and the administrative direction of the Maine Republican Party.
As Billings puts it: “The future of our State Party is truly at stake at next week’s meeting. The meeting will decide whether our State Committee is a body representative of Republicans who participate in our caucuses and convention or a self-perpetuating body controlled by one man.”