Gov. Paul LePage will not attend the Republican National Convention next week after a GOP committee Friday overwhelmingly rejected Maine’s delegates to the convention in Tampa, Fla. The ousted delegates supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who long ago gave up his presidential bid but who had enthusiastic followers in Maine and several other states.
Most of Maine delegates chosen at the state convention were Paul supporters. The RNC instead has chosen a slate of delegates split between the libertarian congressman and Mitt Romney. Under the compromise, 10 delegates from Maine who support Paul will be seated, along with 10 Mitt Romney supporters.
Mark Willis, one of the Ron Paul delegates elected at the state convention, said Friday that the RNC credentialing committee decided at about noontime to uphold a recommendation released by the larger RNC Committee on Contests on Wednesday.
LePage’s decision not to attend the convention mirrored what he has said in the past he would do if all Maine’s delegates chosen at the state convention were not seated.
“I have decided not to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention and instead focus on state business and spending some time with family,” said LePage in the statement distributed at midday Friday. “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. It is unfortunate that not all of these delegates will be seated.”
LePage concluded his statement by saying Mitt Romney has an agenda that will help turn the nation’s economy around.
“I am hopeful that we can put this behind us and focus on the real issues affecting our nation,” he said.
Friday’s meeting was the last chance for the Paul delegates to make their case.
Earlier in the week, the RNC Committee on Contests issued a report that documented serious problems at the Maine GOP convention in May.
“The convention was riddled with serious credentialing, ballot and floor security issues affecting the election … of delegates,” the 26-page report concluded. The problems started, the report said, when the convention doors opened at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 5 and a line of people waiting to check in stretched a quarter mile across the parking lot.
Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said at around noon that he hadn’t heard officially the outcome of the deliberations, but expected the committee to follow the other RNC decisions in the case.
“I’ve tried to explain to the Ron Paul activists that they were not going to win because the RNC Contest Committee believes that Maine was the worst case in the country and the most likely one to lose,” he said. “Once they refused to accept compromise, it became impossible for them all to be seated. Everything changed when they refused compromise.”
Willis, who on Friday was driving to Tampa and the Republican National Convention despite the fact he has been stripped of his role as a delegate, said he and the other Ron Paul supporters who were named delegates at the state convention would gather in Florida to “show solidarity” for Paul.
“We still believe that we were the duly elected delegation,” said Willis. “Both the Paul and Romney campaigns put forward their people to be elected, and we won. If the Romney campaign really though that the convention was so bad, the worst convention in the history of mankind, they should have never elected any delegates. They should have filed a formal protest and walked out, but they didn’t. We won and they lost.”
Brent Tweed, who was elected chairman of the state convention, said Friday that he and the other Paul delegates who have been ousted “were disappointed but not shocked.”
“The deck was stacked against us,” he said. “Our lawyers made an excellent case but the credentialing committee had made up their minds. Basically it was a political decision that was made.”
Willis said he was pleased with LePage’s decision to back up his threat to boycott the national convention if Maine’s delegates were not seated.
“The governor is a man of his word,” said Willis. “It’s nice to know that he’s a man of principle.”
Bangor Daily News writer Robert Long contributed to this report.