The Maine Republican Chair Race Gets Interesting

2012 has been an interesting year for Maine Republican politics, starting with the unusually high attendance to the February caucuses all the way to the present battle for the head of party. Charlie Webster recently announced that he will not seek re-election for his position, leaving the race wide open. For at least a few months now, there has been a silent push by Defense of Liberty PAC chairman Eric Brakey to advance David Jones, who sits on the organization’s Board of Advisers, according to multiple state committee members. Until recently, it seemed it would be Jones vs. Charlie Webster. But it was revealed that State Representative Rich Cebra had interest, with Webster’s refusal to run again adding to the mix. Now Cebra is confirmed and it’s a two way race between a total outsider and a prominent Republican.

The race appears to be changing however.

According to individuals on the State Committee who have received phone calls in support of Jones, it was claimed that support was roughly around three quarters of the entire body. Some disputed that number, as Jones lacks name recognition in the Republican Party, let alone Maine politics in general. His only claim to fame is running for Governor as an Independent in 2006, where he attempted to qualify for clean elections, which DOLPAC itself views as contrary to the liberty message. Either way, the push was strong for a December election while most of the party was focused on November elections.

It would now appear that the Jones movement is fizzing out, with everything quiet on that front. Representative Cebra has recently made it official he will be seeking the chairmanship on December 1st, with much praise and excitement from throughout the party. Even Patrick Calder, who was Portland City Republican Chair and candidate for the Republican CD-1 nomination, voiced his support for Cebra. Calder endorsed Congressman Ron Paul before the caucuses. This is just one of several examples on how Cebra has appeal to the Ron Paul supporters.

A new name is circulating now. Representative Beth O’Connor, who recently lost her race to Democrat Joshua Plante, is being discussed by many Republicans. According to rumor, she is considering the position. O’Connor is a respected member of the liberty movement, supporting various measures in her time in the Legislature to advance the cause. She was also a Defense of Liberty PAC endorsed candidate who received ground support from the organization.

This race gets interesting because of a number of points. A Cebra vs. Jones race is essentially the Republican mainstream with the liberty majority vs. DOLPAC and their supporters. An entrance by Representative O’Connor into the race would shake things up quite a bit. She would potentially draw away a number of liberty supporters from Representative Cebra. She would also divide the DOLPAC vote, as supporters of the organization would be faced with voting for one over the other.

Next question: Could David Jones withdraw his name?

Given the silence on the Jones front and the rising support of O’Connor, it would make perfect sense for DOLPAC to rally around O’Connor over Jones. The organization, given many of their new candidates were rejected on Election Day, including Jones’ son John, needs a victory if it is to remain strong. Could Maine Republican Party Chairwoman O’Connor be the answer for the PAC?

As time draws closer to December 1 and people look forward to the end of the tumultuous Charlie Webster era, the race for the chairmanship promises to grow more interesting. The Jones vs. Cebra race appears to becoming a three-way race with the inclusion of Representative Beth O’Connor. Cebra, who is rumored to be the chosen pick of Governor Paul LePage, still appears to be the frontrunner. A change in the race could create obstacles however and further complicate what could be a tense vote in December for Republicans on the state committee. Only time will tell how things will turn out.