May 23, 2019
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Why I left the Republican Party

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Skip Colson, left, Town of Alexander coordinator for Scott D'Amboise, and Mark Willis, right, Washington County coordinator for D'Amboise hang a banner in support of their candidate at the Washington Academy gym during the Washington County Republican Super Caucus on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012.

Last week, thirteen Republicans, myself included, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Maine Republican Party explaining why some of us were not just resigning from our positions, but leaving the party altogether.

In our letter, we cited numerous issues at the federal and state levels that we could no longer support nor defend, stating: “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.”

However, in my case, as the former National Committeeman for the Maine Republican Party and member of the Republican National Committee, there was another issue that tipped my scale in favor of walking away completely from the GOP. To explain, I’ll use a sports analogy:

What if there were two football teams, you being on the underdog team versus the likely favorite in a big game that would decide who would attend a national convention that would elect the head of your football league. In this case, both teams brought their best game, played by the rules, and in the end, your team won fair and square. Let’s say furthermore, the favorites, upset that they lost, appealed your victory to the football league. And let’s say the football league (who favored the favorite team all along), decided (without any valid evidence) it could not determine who won or lost and therefore, rewarded each team with a tie.

Now let’s say you and your teammates, discouraged but not defeated, traveled to the national convention where your candidate, under the rules of the football league, had the requisite support of five teams to at least be on the ballot and speak on his behalf for the position of league president. Then, let’s say, a lawyer for the candidate of the favorite team had the rules changed so that your candidate now needed eight teams to be on the ballot and then had those rules pushed through and adopted in violation of the convention rules, over the objections of you and half of the convention that should have been heard.

That is what happened to the Ron Paul supporters at the hands of the Romney campaign at the at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

The bottom line is that the blatant breaking, bending and flat-out ignoring of your own rules is the type of behavior we have come to expect from the Democratic Party, as they are no longer the party of JFK and have been shifting to the hard left for decades.

However, one would expect better from the RNC if you are to believe in the words of the preamble of the RNC rules, which state, “Be it resolved, that the Republican Party is the party of the open door. Ours is the party of liberty, the party of equality, of opportunity for all, and favoritism for none.”

In the aftermath of Tampa, grassroots activists and I fought to rescind these rules at the RNC winter and summer meetings but our resolutions to do so fell on deaf ears. All windows to achieve this act of good faith to the underdogs of the Republican Party have closed forever.

The RNC rules as they stand, were written by and for the favorite team. To continue on in my position as National Committeeman of the Maine Republican Party would lend credibility and legitimacy to these invalid rules. Furthermore, I would have been expected to spend the next three years preparing for the 2016 primary cycle, ultimately watching and knowing that the underdog team would fall short again — echoes of 2008 and 2012.

In the end, I say, let this OpEd serve as a dire warning to the underdog teams of the Republican Party across our nation who still believe a grassroots candidate can secure the nomination in 2016. Even after the debacle of the Romney campaign, the fix is in for the favorite team in 2016, and there is nothing that the Republican voter or activist can do to stop it.

I would therefore rather relinquish my position at the highest levels of a political party than carry on with a heavy and burdened conscience, knowing that no matter how talented and skilled, the underdog stands no chance.

Moving forward, I would encourage everyone to take a look at where people can learn more about how to encourage and support independent candidates within the state of Maine, outside of the two-party system.

Mark Willis of Dennysville is an information technology manager, selectman, former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent and small farmer who specializes in raising heirloom vegetables and Icelandic sheep.

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