WESTBROOK – The Westbrook Republican Committee has chosen its delegates for the state convention slated for May in Augusta, and a number of Ron Paul supporters are certain to be among them, after what local Republican Committee Chairwoman Rose Marie Russell described as an aggressive effort by Paul supporters at Sunday’s caucus.
With former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney enjoying a comfortable lead in national polls as the Republican frontrunner, and Newt Gingrich coming in second, many national analysts have described Paul as a third-place candidate, a potential “spoiler” who is racing to catch up to the leaders.
In communities across the nation, Republican groups are choosing their representatives to their states’ conventions. Russell said at Sunday’s Westbrook caucus, a pair of Paul supporters no one recognized showed up to whip up the crowd of about 30 people and drive nominations of Paul supporters to the delegation.
“I felt they were disruptive,” Russell said, referring to the two.
Russell was quick to note that no one at the caucus broke any rules or acted out of turn, but she accused the Paul supporters of encouraging caucus attendees to shout out objections at key moments, coaching local attendees on what to say and when to say it, and performing other disruptive acts in order to sabotage discussions of other Republican candidates or their supporters. While not illegal, Russell said, she and other party leaders saw it as a manipulative hijacking of an event that was supposed to be driven by local people.
“That’s what the rest of us felt like,” she said. “Legally, it wasn’t.”
Russell stressed that she had no objections to anyone supporting Ron Paul for president, and welcomed lively discussion about the merits of all candidates, including Paul. Her problem, she said, was with people who came from out of town to put pressure on the locals.
“I think what will happen is, we’ll never see them again,” she said.
Sunday’s caucus elected Russell as caucus chairwoman, and Matt Maloney, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year, as delegation chairman.
While Maloney said he was a Paul supporter, Russell said he did not adopt any of the tactics some of the other Paul supporters used, and conducted himself honorably.
“He’s wonderful,” she said. “I like him very much.”
A longtime Paul supporter, Maloney also served as a delegate to the 2008 GOP convention, and he was a Paul supporter then.
Maloney confirmed that a few Paul campaigners, some of whom came from out of state, showed up at the caucus to stump for Paul, and did try a little too hard to get the crowd worked up.
“I think there was a point when things got a little disruptive,” he said.
Maloney also agreed that the campaigners were doing a lot of “coaching” of some of the caucus attendees, but he said they were not intentionally trying to sabotage the caucus. They were merely enthusiastic, and lost sight of the process, he said.
“People were using motions and Robert Rules of Order incorrectly,” he said.
Charlie Webster, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said Wednesday that he had heard a number of complaints about the Paul supporters’ conduct in Westbrook, but he does not believe that reflects the Paul campaign’s behavior statewide.
“It appears to be an isolated incident,” he said.
Webster said all candidates bring out-of-state backers in to help drum up support, and the Paul campaign has been no different. He chalked Sunday’s behavior up to a couple of enthusiastic but politically inexperienced supporters who were a little overzealous.
“They didn’t understand the process,” he said.