AUGUSTA, Maine — Mark Willis of Dennysville has emerged as the libertarian wing of the GOP’s candidate to replace Reince Priebus as chairman of the National Republican Committee.
The Republican Liberty Caucus National Committee, which has strong ties to the Ron Paul wing of the GOP, early Wednesday morning issued its unanimous endorsement of Willis’ bid to become the next national party chairman.
“We’re proud that one of our RLC members has stepped forward to challenge the inept management of the national GOP under the reign of Reince Priebus,” RLC National Chairman Dave Nalle said in the endorsement. “But this endorsement is not just because [Willis] is one of our own, it is because he is eminently qualified to lead the resurgence of the national Republican party.”
At the May 2012 Maine State Republican Convention, Willis was elected to serve as Maine’s Republican national committeeman from Maine. He also was among a slate of Ron Paul delegates who were not seated at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., after the national party’s rules committee found flaws in the way the state convention was conducted.
The dispute between Maine’s Ron Paul delegates and party leaders, including Priebus, drew national attention, widening a gulf between libertarian-leaning Republicans aligned with Paul and the GOP establishment. In Maine, that conflict played out at the state committee level, with Paul supporters passing resolutions that condemned the national GOP and upheld the validity of the state convention.
Willis said in Wednesday’s release that his first act as national GOP chairman would be to repeal “quick gavel” rules that angered Paul delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
“If we are truly the party of liberty, equality and favoritism for none, then let’s start acting like it by embracing the grassroots once and for all,” Willis said in the release.
In making his case to become national party chairman, Willis also calls for returning greater autonomy to state parties and a more aggressive campaign to attract independents and disenchanted Democrats to the GOP.
Priebus, of Wisconsin, announced in November that he plans to seek re-election as national GOP chairman. Former Oklahoma U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts also has been mentioned as a candidate. The election is scheduled for Jan. 25 at the RNC winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
While Paul’s supporters and other libertarian-leaning elements of the GOP point to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat as evidence of the need to oust Priebus and shake up the party establishment, a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday shows a significant decrease in support for the tea party. Only 8 percent of survey respondents identified themselves as members of the tea party, down from a high of 24 percent in April 2010.