Ky. GOP seeks to enforce loyalty, avoid 'embarrassing' split at convention, 4th Dist. chairman says

04/23/2012 07:11 AM

As Kentucky’s political parties reorganize this year, Kentucky Republicans are debating the merits of strict party loyalty versus inclusion of newer tea party aligned activists — all with an eye toward August’s Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Both the Kentucky Republican and Democratic party are electing new leaders this spring, from precinct captains to state party chairmen. In some counties during the GOP reorganization, controversy has flared up as tea party activists have found themselves disqualified for supporting non-Republicans in the past. In Campbell County, for instance, those who signed a petition for libertarian candidate for state treasurer Ken Moellman last year.

Kevin Sell, who was re-elected Republican chairman in the 4th Congressional District at that district convention Saturday, said last week on Pure Politics that party loyalty is essential if they are to work toward common goals.

Such strict rules, though, don’t apply to candidates. One of the seven Republican candidates for Congress in the 4th District, Walt Schumm of Oldham County, has contributed to Democratic candidates, including Gov. Steve Beshear last year.

“That is not part of the rules … For us to be able to hold elected officials and candidates accountable, we have to have loyalty rules in place so that leadership is in place so we’re not allowing candidates who aren’t loyal to get elected,” Sell said (7:30).

But he said if someone is elected as a Republican and strays to support candidates outside of the GOP, “we ought to have some mechanism again under a loyalty to the agenda provision to criticize them, to maybe remove them,” he said (8:00).

Later this year, the Republican Party will be selecting its delegates to go to the National Convention in Tampa. And Sell said given the way some county conventions have resulted in more tea party activists in leadership positions, it raises the prospect that the party could send delegates to Tampa who will support Ron Paul rather than throw their support to Mitt Romney.

“The possibility exists,” he said (8:45). “Do I expect that to be more in numbers — more of presence? Absolutely. Could it be more of a presence at the state convention? Sure it can. Will it be enough to make a difference? I highly doubt it.

“You certainly want to go there with your delegation all in lock step in wanting to do the same thing. So, yes, if it does occur, it is a bit embarrassing,” Sell said (9:30).

Sell also must stay impartial in the 4th congressional district Republican primary in the race to replace retiring Congressman Geoff Davis. (However, Sell’s wife Christi did donate to the campaign of Alecia Webb-Edgington).

So far, Sell said he didn’t think the exchanges between the candidates over missing their jobs to campaign have been harmful to the GOP’s chances of keeping the seat.

“I don’t see anything that’s completely out of line,” he said (8:00).

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