AUGUSTA, Maine — A dozen Republicans upset with party politics at the national and state levels and dismayed by the actions of Gov. Paul LePage and GOP members of the Legislature have resigned from the party en masse.
Among those who quit the party are Mark Willis of Dennysville, who is a Republican national committeeman; Sam Canders, who lost a bid last month to serve as chairman of the Maine Republican Party; and several people who supported presidential candidate Ron Paul in 2012 only to be shut out of the Republican National Convention.
At the national level, they targeted their ire at House Speaker John Boehner for removing “the most fiscally conservative GOP members from leadership positions, citing their ‘unwillingness to be team players,’” according to the group’s resignation letter. They also took issue with Republicans in Congress who were unable to implement limits on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities, their support for U.S. military aid in other nations and the fact that they allowed the passage of gun control legislation.
At the state level, they cited Republicans who did not sustain LePage’s veto of a bipartisan biennial budget bill that temporarily raised sales, meals and lodging taxes.
“We have been told that many donors have refused to donate one more cent to the MEGOP due to this budget debacle, but nevertheless we are expected to ignore these facts and get out there and raise funds for the party,” reads the letter. “This we cannot do in good faith; the Republican Party has lost its way and the donors know it.”
As for LePage, they had many complaints ranging from the governor’s support of an Internet sales tax and Common Core Education standards to his vetoes of bills that would have limited drone and cellphone surveillance bills, and his veto of a bill that would have loosened restrictions on small Maine farmers to produce and sell unpasteurized milk.
LePage said in one of his recent radio addresses that he vetoed the drone and cellphone bills because they need more work. He also said he is preparing another version of the raw milk bill that would allow consumers to tour the farms they purchase from.
“I believe Mainers should have the right to buy this milk within full view of the farm where it was produced,” he said. “Arming a consumer with information is power.”
Bryan Daugherty, a Ron Paul who left the Penobscot County Republican Committee during a rash of GOP resignations in March, said he attended a Republican National Committee meeting last week in Boston that, for him, represented the “last straw.”
“We’re trying to restore the voice of the grassroots people,” said Daugherty. “We’ve been fighting that same cause and others at many levels from the state party to the RNC. I’ve found that they’re not welcoming any type of discussion. For me it just comes down to the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again.”
Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett, who since being elected last month has consistently said his priority is creating party unity after years of discord, said he respected the decisions and said the timing was right as the party moves toward the 2014 election.
“I don’t view people choosing to follow their conscience in a respectful way as a threat to party unity,” said Bennett. “I understand there are several issues which they’ve raised which make it very difficult for them to continue an active role in the Republican Party. … We are shifting from a period where we are fueled by our diversity of views and dynamic range of opinion within the party into an election year when we’re going to have to pull together in a unified fashion. That means setting aside our differences.”
Aside from Willis, Canders and Daugherty, the resignees include state committee members Thomas Barry of Androscoggin County; Ann-Marie Grimes Grenier of Cumberland County; Gregory Hodge of Lincoln County; Olga LaPlante of Cumberland County; Russell Montgomery of Knox County; Violet Willis of Washington County; and registered Republicans Maria Hodge of Penobscot County, and L. Scott and Debbie D’Amboise of Androscoggin County.
Bennett said he wasn’t worried about the long-term consequences of the resignations.
“I like to celebrate our differences, frankly,” he said. “It’s something that makes us stronger overall.”
The authors of the resignation letter disagreed.
“We can no longer allow ourselves to be called nor enrolled as Republicans,” they wrote. “We can no longer associate ourselves with a political party that goes out of its way to continually restrict our freedoms and liberties as well as reaching deeper and deeper into our wallets. We instead choose the path that focuses on ways to help our fellow Mainers outside of party politics.”