A pro-Ron Paul slate of delegates from Maine to the Republican National Convention is being challenged, reflecting lingering bitterness over a chaotic state convention that saw Paul supporters take over the delegate-selection process.
Peter Cianchette and Janet Martens Staples, a Maine representative on the Republican National Committee, filed the challenge to 14 pro-Paul delegates and alternates on Saturday, the last day challenges could be lodged. The challenge contends that the delegates were elected at the state convention in May when there was no quorum, that lax credentialing and security on the convention floor meant illegal votes were cast and that party and parliamentary rules were broken.
"I have a special obligation to understand, respect and follow those rules, and it is my sincere belief that we did not -- in an egregious manner," said Staples, who serves on the RNC's rules committee. "This is about the integrity of the process."
But to Matt McDonald, one of the challenged delegates, the action is "utter foolishness," an "act of betrayal" and a weapon for Democrats to use to bludgeon Republicans with independent voters.
"Unenrolled (voters) will say, 'Look at the Republicans, they couldn't stop fighting each other,' " McDonald said.
The fighting began at the GOP convention nearly three months ago in Augusta, when supporters of Paul -- who supports free-market economic polices and libertarian beliefs -- took over the state convention from establishment Republicans and elected pro-Paul delegates, although the Maine delegation is officially uncommitted.
Staples said the rules got trampled in the process.
Challenges "were ruled out of order inappropriately," and "we were suspending the rules every time you turned around," she said.
Staples said the Paul supporters label "anybody who isn't a Ron Paul supporter" as an "establishment Republican," and they consider establishment "a dirty word."
"These people are still fighting over Romney versus Ron Paul, and that's been decided," she said. "It's not about Ron Paul, it's about Obama versus Romney."
But McDonald said the rules were followed and claims that they weren't are preposterous. He blamed Cianchette, a member of the Republican establishment in the state.
"There was a process to it, and what Peter (Cianchette) is saying is that somebody walked into the convention center and onto the floor and voted," he said. "Really, Peter?"
Cianchette did not return a phone call seeking comment Saturday night.
McDonald said the Paul supporters met with Charlie Webster after the convention and pledged to work together on the state and local level despite the split over who would make the best national nominee. He said the challenge is a "stab in the back" after that agreement.
But Webster sought to distance himself from the dispute, saying the first he heard of the challenge was from a Paul delegate who called him Saturday morning.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage's top political aide, Brent Littlefield, also weighed in Saturday evening, saying the governor believes "all Maine delegates should be seated at the Republican National Convention."
Littlefield said LePage communicated his stand to Webster, Staples and Rick Bennett, the other Maine member of the Republican National Committee,
Staples said the challenge will first be heard by the party's Contest Committee in about two weeks, but its finding can be challenged before the Credentials Committee, which will meet the weekend before the GOP convention, to be held Aug. 27-30 in Tampa. That committee's report could be challenged before the full convention, Staples said, but that's rare.
McDonald said the challenge is a slap in the face to Paul supporters -- and a hit to the wallets of the delegates, who he characterized as "working-class and middle-class" Republicans who have scrimped and saved to afford the trip to Tampa.
"Winter's coming -- that could be oil money," he said.
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