Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Tuesday evening that negotiators with the National Republican Committee were nearing a deal that would seat Maine’s delegates for Ron Paul at the national convention next week in Florida.
But, Mark Willis of Dennysville, a newly elected member of Maine’s national convention delegation, Ron Paul supporter and incoming national GOP committeeman for Maine, said no deal had been struck and that any arrangement that threatened the seats of Paul supporters would not be accepted.
“The Maine delegation and the Paul campaign have not signed into or agreed to any deal for our delegation,” said Willis at about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. “Our position at this point is no deal, we’re all going to Tampa and we’ll all be seated.”
Webster said he had been on the phone with reporters and party representatives throughout the day Tuesday and that no one had given him specific details.
“All I have is rumor,” said Webster at about 6 p.m., just as negotiators were convening to discuss the Maine situation. “Maine is the only state that’s left where they haven’t made a decision. I have no sense why it’s taken so long.”
CNN reported Tuesday evening that a deal was near and corroborated Webster’s assertion that Maine was the last state under negotiation. The network reported that some Paul delegates would be seated, which would help Mitt Romney avoid embarrassment as he officially receives the GOP nomination. Agreements had been reached in Massachusetts and Louisiana, but negotiations were still under way in Maine, it said.
Paul, a Texas congressman and Republican Party candidate for president, gained the support of Maine delegates during a controversial state convention where his well-organized supporters seized control and elected their delegates to the national convention.
But leading Maine Republicans, including a national party committeewoman and the chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign in Maine, filed a complaint with the party’s national committee asking it to disqualify the Ron Paul delegates and prohibit them from taking their seats at the national convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30.
Earlier this month, Webster offered a compromise to the Paul delegates. His deal would have let them attend next month’s convention in Tampa, Fla., but obligate them to vote for Mitt Romney if Paul doesn’t have sufficient support to be nominated for president.
The Paul supporters rejected that plan.
“It is unreasonable for the Republican Party at either the national or state level, or for any campaign for president, to attempt to pressure the Maine delegation to vote any particular way,” Brent Tweed, the head of the Paul delegation, said in a statement in early August. “We will not be intimidated into signing political deals under threat of being unseated. We are accountable to the Maine Republicans who elected us, not the Mitt Romney campaign.”
Last week, Maine delegates who back Paul sought an injunction against the Republican National Committee to stop it from investigating whether they were legitimately chosen to represent the state at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.
Webster said an influx of “new people” at the state convention in May overwhelmed the registration and credentialing process, which among other reasons is why Maine’s delegates are under debate. Webster said the convention attracted about 3,200 people — far more than the record of 2,300 set in 2010.
“A lot of the blame is on us in the state party,” he said. “We did a terrible job of running the convention and I’m willing to take the blame. We weren’t organized. A lot of mistakes were made.”
Webster said a traditional practice of letting state delegates register until the day of the convention “came back and bit us.”
“In retrospect that was a mistake,” said Webster.
Webster said at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday that he hadn’t heard anything new since he talked with his contacts at around 5 p.m.
“They said it was up in the air,” said Webster. “I said ‘what are you negotiating,’ and they said ‘we’ll tell you when it’s done.’”
Willis said he didn’t know the details, either.
“If anything changes in the disposition of our delegates, it will be because the Republican National Committee inflicted it,” he said.