CONCORD, N.H. — State Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball tendered his resignation Thursday night, an action he said was the “best thing that could have happened” given the unrest that has plagued the party for months.
He made the announcement at the beginning of the party’s Executive Board meeting at the Holiday Inn in Concord to a room full of his supporters, media and members of the NHGOP.
A vote to oust Kimball had been expected at the meeting, and Kimball took some by surprise by announcing his resignation. He said a vote would have been the worst thing that could have happened for the party.
Cries of “Don’t do it Jack!” resounded after he spoke, but he calmly walked away from the meeting table after ensuring those in attendance, “I’m not going away. We’ll continue to fight outside of this. That’s my promise.”
His announcement comes after a long and somewhat dramatic controversy surrounding his chairmanship, in which members of the Executive Board and other Republicans, including those of the national delegation, pressed for his resignation. Those who spoke up cited lackluster fundraising, staffing issues and several Republican defeats in special elections.
Kimball has alluded to the conflict as being between Tea Party activists and “establishment” Republicans, and in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s meeting, he had referred to himself as the “bridge” between both parties and warned the state committee would face a worse situation if he were to resign or be voted out.
“We can’t stand to have what is going on now,” Kimball said. “I’ve always pushed for party unity; I thought my election was a great opportunity for this party to unify.”
He made it clear his choice to resign was not much of a choice at all.
“I have come to the conclusion that even during a vote, if I were to win — and I know the odds are against me — it would be next to impossible for me to fulfill my obligations as chairman moving forward, given what’s against me. I strongly feel that if we come together as a party moving forward, we will do what we must do in 2012. I will not stand in the way of that.”
Kimball said he doesn’t question the loyalty of anyone who had signed a petition calling for his resignation. Following the meeting, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, N.H. House Speaker Bill O’Brien and N.H. Senate President Peter Bragdon — who had all reportedly participated in a conference call supporting Kimball’s resignation — issued a joint statement.
“Outgoing chairman Jack Kimball gave the New Hampshire Republican Party an invaluable gift tonight. He put the best interests of the NH GOP ahead of all other considerations, and we are grateful for that. We thank him for his service to our party. Now we can move forward with unity.”
Kimball noted the events and final decision have been hard on him and his family. He said he’d received an onslaught of pressure and many phone calls urging him to step down, and he made the decision Tuesday after speaking with some friends.
“I really cannot stand in the way any longer of what needs to happen,” he said. “It’s not like me to stand in the way of party unity.”
Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC Chairman Jerry DeLemus, a close friend of Kimball’s, said he believes the resignation will be “gum on the bottom of the GOP’s shoe” for a while.
“The GOP is really going to suffer from this,” he said.
However, NHGOP Vice Chairman Wayne MacDonald, who based on the party’s bylaws will be stepping into Kimball’s role to finish out the term, is more confident.
“I feel good about the future of this party,” he said, adding the doubt about its unity following Kimball’s resignation comes from simply caring about the party. “It’s only natural when you care about something that you’re going to get aggressive.”
MacDonald said the party is going to continue doing what it needs to do to increase fundraising and get Republicans elected.
The push to overhaul Democratic leadership appeared to be one thing the whole group agreed upon Thursday.
“All of us are Republicans in this room,” Kimball said. “And I have to say this. We have got to come together and defeat Barack Obama in 2012 and we’ve got to elect a Republican governor as well.”
His words were followed with loud applause and cheers.
Kimball’s term would have ended in January 2013. MacDonald, who has been vice chairman for nine years and been a member of the NHGOP in some capacity for 35 years, said he plans to finish out that term as chairman effective immediately.
(c)2011 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services