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Republican Party leader in N.H. quits

Rift within GOP; some attribute low fund-raising

Jack Kimball and his allies portray the conflict as one between Tea Party activists and long-term Republicans. Jack Kimball and his allies portray the conflict as one between Tea Party activists and long-term Republicans.
By Shira Schoenberg
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. - Embattled New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball resigned last night, ending a bitter internal battle that pitted Tea Party activists against long-time Republicans.

“I have come to the conclusion that even during a vote if I were to win, and I know the odds are against that, it would be next to impossible for me to fulfill my obligations as chairman moving forward given what’s been against me,’’ Kimball said before the Republican Party’s Executive Committee’s scheduled vote on whether to oust him.

Kimball continued: “Tonight, sadly, very sadly because I’m not sure this is helping our party, I’m not going to become an obstacle in our party. I am tendering my resignation as state committee chairman of New Hampshire.’’

Vice Chairman Wayne MacDonald, a fraud investigator for the state Department of Health and Human Services who has held his party post since 2003, will take over as chairman until January 2013. MacDonald, who has largely stayed out of the public debate, is respected as an activist with decades of experience.

MacDonald said he will focus on two upcoming special elections and on making New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary a success.

Kimball, a businessman and former Tea Party organizer, ran for governor in 2010 but lost the Republican primary. He was elected party chairman in January, beating a candidate favored by the party establishment.

Since then, Republicans have blamed Kimball for lackluster fund-raising and several special-election defeats.

Kimball fired the party’s executive director and had not yet set a budget for the party. Some activists say Kimball has not reached out to advisers beyond a small cadre of conservatives, though Kimball has said that he has tried to unify the party.

New Hampshire’s leading Republicans - US Representatives Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, US Senator Kelly Ayotte, state Senate President Peter Bragdon, and state House Speaker William O’Brien - had called on Kimball to resign.

In a joint statement after the resignation, the elected officials said, “Outgoing chairman Jack Kimball gave the New Hampshire Republican Party an invaluable gift tonight. He put the best interests of the NH GOP ahead of all other considerations, and we are grateful for that.’’

Kimball and his allies have portrayed the conflict as one between Tea Party activists and long-term Republicans.

More than 50 supporters, some holding “Don’t Tread on Me’’ flags, rallied outside the meeting. “This is the establishment Republicans versus the Tea Party that helped get them into office,’’ said Jeffrey Diggins, a Tea Party activist from Fremont. “They rode us in, now they’re bringing us back to the barn.’’

“Unfortunately I think the establishment GOP had it out for him the entire time,’’ said Jerry DeLemus, a leader in the state Tea Party movement.

But others said Kimball was unprepared to run a major organization. “I don’t think it was about ideology,’’ said Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey, a former party chairman. “It was about management.’’

Last night, with cries of “Don’t do it Jack!’’ ringing from the audience, Kimball said he was stepping down for the sake of the party. “This party needs to be unified,’’ Kimball said. “It can’t stand to have what is going on now.’’

Kimball did not say what he will do next, but pledged, “I’m not going away. We’ll continue to fight.’’

Republican leaders say the upheaval is not likely to affect the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Duprey said the Republican National Committee men will protect the primary’s status, and candidates will visit independently of the state party.

But DeLemus said, “If I was running a campaign, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of this.’’

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg @globe.com

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