NH GOP leader, tea party activist, fights back; says he won’t quit

Posted Aug. 26, 2011, at 4:44 a.m.
NH GOP Chairman Jack Kimball
AP
NH GOP Chairman Jack Kimball

CONCORD, N.H. — The state’s embattled GOP chairman says he won’t resign despite pressure to quit from top party leaders.

Jack Kimball, a tea party activist, says he represents a movement that’s much larger than him and that’s crucial to the party’s future.

Kimball held firm even as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and a majority of the party’s executive board called for new leadership in a letter dated Wednesday. The board will vote Sept. 1 on whether to remove Kimball.

Some Republicans are unhappy about recent GOP losses in special elections for House seats. Some raised concerns about the lack of cash in the party’s accounts. Two events in recent weeks coalesced support for Kimball’s ouster.

At a special election in Barrington two weeks ago, Kimball signed a petition he thought was in support of giving a Libertarian Party candidate access to a ballot line. It was actually a petition to give Libertarians broader access to ballots in general.

Last week, Kimball fired popular GOP executive director Will Wrobleski.

Former GOP state chairman Fergus Cullen said Kimball’s signing of the Libertarian petition was “a critical tipping point.”

“Firing Wrobleski compounded the problem,” Cullen said. “Both got people saying he’s got to go.”

Rep. Shawn Jasper, a Hudson Republican, said he found it “horrifying that a Republican Party chairman thought it was a good idea to have another candidate, not a Republican, run against a Republican.”

“That was simply it for me,” Jasper said. “It appears quite frankly to me at this point that he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party.”

Kimball says ousting him will create a deep divide in the party. He says the party’s lean coffers are a result of his efforts to retire old debt.

At a press conference Thursday, Kimball stressed his tea party affiliation and blamed the rift on differences between the tea party and what he described as “the establishment.”

“One of the major goals of my chairmanship is to help the party move into the future, but sadly there are some who are still stuck in the past,” Kimball said.

Ayotte was joined in her call for Kimball’s resignation by the party’s top echelon, including congressmen Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, Senate President Peter Bragdon, House Speaker William O’Brien and GOP national committeeman Steve Duprey.

In a joint statement, Ayotte and the others thanked Kimball for his time and effort but added, “To ensure that all of the party’s energy and resources are solely focused on electing Republicans, we believe it is time to move beyond this serious distraction.”

Kimball said the request for his resignation “comes as quite a shock to me.” He remained adamant that he will not step down.

“You’ve got a small core of folks who are not happy I got elected,” Kimball said.

Kimball defended his fundraising capabilities. He said he raised $191,392 in the first half of this year, calling it the second-best performance for the first two quarters in the past eight years.

He confirmed he’d been visited by O’Brien and Republican activist Jennifer Horn, who sought his resignation and told him the Republican Governors Association was prepared to donate $100,000 to state GOP coffers if he resigned.

“I won’t stand for that kind of deal-making, and neither will the voters,” Kimball said Thursday. “They deserve to know the truth.”

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