GOP seeks to settle local strife

May 28, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

Infighting among Washington County Republicans has attracted the attention of the Republican Party statewide.

It has party officials calling for unity and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign concerned that any division could hurt his chances of being elected governor this fall.

"There has never been a time when Republican Party unity has been more important than it is right now in this race for governor," said Paul Schurick, Ehrlich's campaign manager.

Ehrlich raised the issue at the Washington County Lincoln Day dinner earlier this month.

He implored GOP faithful to "please put aside your personal differences," "please be on the same page" and "please don't get bogged down in petty politics."


The chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee said party relations are harmonious and grumbling by a few unhappy people has gotten blown out of proportion.

"There may be a few disgruntled people, but there is absolutely no split. I can't fathom where they see this split is," Mildred "Mickey" Myers said.

Recent problems began shortly after Vikki Nelson, a member of the Central Committee, announced her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates.

When two other Republican candidates came forward to run against Nelson in the primary, the committee asked Nelson to resign.

The committee's bylaws say "any member running against another Republican should resign from the central committee" so there won't be the appearance of a conflict of interest when the committee doles out campaign money.

Nelson declined, saying it's her right to serve out the remainder of the four-year term to which she was elected.

In a letter to the editor of The Herald-Mail explaining their position, Central Committee members urged Republicans to support Nelson's opponents, William Wivell and LeRoy E. Myers Jr.

"Because of the destructive manner in which Nelson has chosen to run her campaign by attacking her own party, we cannot in good conscience support Nelson as a viable candidate in the 2A House of Delegates race," the letter said.

Mickey Myers declined to elaborate on what Nelson has allegedly done to hurt the party.

The letter upset Nelson's campaign manager, Vincent Dellaposta, who is considering filing a formal complaint with the state party. Dellaposta argues that the committee violated its own bylaws by snubbing Nelson.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said he is urging Dellaposta to drop the issue for the greater good of the party.

At the same time, Nelson should not have to deal with opposition from her own party, especially when the bylaws don't require her to resign, Steele said.

"Everyone needs to drop back 10 yards and punt, and punt the attitude away. In my view we're fighting over nothing," Steele said.

Steele doesn't believe the flap will hurt Ehrlich's chances of winning in November.

"I think it's a distraction, quite frankly, to have to deal with the dirty laundry in the newspaper. We've got more important things to do," Steele said.

So far, it has complicated the process of selecting Ehrlich's local campaign manager, Schurick said.

Washington County is not the only county where a local campaign manager has not yet been selected, he said.

The Republican Party is at a turning point in Maryland history, he said.

Ehrlich represents perhaps the best chance to take over the governor's mansion that the party has had in a long time.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, predicted the party won't let petty disagreements stand in the way of working for Ehrlich.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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