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Soon-to-be-Elected Maine GOP Chair Faces Fractured Party
11/27/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

It's been a rough year for Maine Republicans. They gave up a seat in the U.S. Senate, and lost majority control of both houses of the state Legislature. After several high-profile missteps, state GOP Chair Charlie Webster announced that he would resign his post, effective Saturday. The stage is now set for the election of a new party chair who will have to rebuild the party from the ground up. A.J. Higgins reports.

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Soon-to-be-Elected Maine GOP Chair Faces Fractured
Originally Aired: 11/27/2012 5:30 PM

When Republican state Rep. Beth O'Connor lost her seat this month representing voters in Berwick and Lebanon, she decided to take action. Her new challenge: the resurrection of the Maine Republican Party.

"I've been called a tea party darling, I've been called a lady of liberty, and those things are really important to me," O'Connor says.

O'Connor has been perceived by some Democrats as uncompromising and rigid. But that's okay, she insists, vowing not to waste any time trying to win over those who have already made up their minds.

On Saturday, she will challenge former state Rep. Rich Cebra, of Naples, for the chairmanship of the Maine Republican Party - a post being vacated by Charlie Webster following the recent elections that saw a wave of Republican defeats.

O'Connor's agenda for the party would include more freedoms for all Mainers, less government and fewer taxes. O'Connor says she knows that unifying the party, which was split between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney supporters this year, will be difficult. But she says Republicans can regain prominence in state politics if they can learn to work together.

"I want to welcome everyone," O'Connor says. "We need to be civil. And I like having the 'old guard' there because they bring history, but I also want to bring in all the new ideas and all the technology, and I want to be able to, you know, just have a ground game."

"We're actively working to get her elected," says Matt McDonald, of Belfast, who was a Paul delegate to this year's GOP National Convention.

McDonald says Paul supporters, who believe outgoing Chair Charlie Webster actively worked against their candidate, would welcome O'Connor, or Cebra, as party chair.

"I think we can unify now, now that Mr. Webster is gone, or is going to be stepping down," McDonald says. "I think both Rich and Beth - both of them are very friendly toward the liberty supporters - Ron Paul supporters. Both of them can work with traditional Republicans as well."

Former Maine Congressman David Emery likes to think of himself as one of those traditional Republicans, and he says he hopes whoever the state committee elects as the party's next chair will take a lesson from this year's election and help guide Republicans back to the path blazed by Ronald Reagan, one of America's most popular presidents.

"You get there by being warm and open and welcoming, rather than threatening and divisive," Emery says. "And I think that's a very important lesson that we have to learn at every level of government. and the governor and the legislative Republicans would do well to take a look at Reagan's example and follow it - because it was successful."

Calls to GOP state chair candidate Rich Cebra were not returned by air time.


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