Delaware GOP Chair Tom Ross Implodes at Sussex GOP Meeting
Delaware Republican State Chairman Tom Ross “imploded” at the Sussex County GOP monthly meeting on February 16, 2011, fueling reports by one Delaware opinion reporter that Ross does not plan to seek re-election at the State’s April 30, 2011, State Republican Convention.
“Because it is true!” Ross angrily proclaimed when asked why he said that US Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell “could not be elected dog-catcher in Delaware.” The remark was explosive because the GOP Chair thus dramatically abandoned his earlier attempts to build bridges with the more conservative wing of the Delaware GOP in the State’s Southernmost county, Sussex. Ross’ affirmation of his actions, and that of the Delaware State Republican Committee during the 2010 elections cycle prove malice intent to derail Christine O’Donnell’s election.
Before the overflow auditorium crowd of about 400, Ross took a sudden and dramatic change of direction after spending about ten minutes offering conciliatory, bridge-building comments and down-playing the divisions in the Party (DEGOP). Ross’ dramatic departure from his attempts to heal the wounds to inflaming and antagonizing the DEGOP’s conservatives was interpreted by observers as Ross giving up any attempt to retain the support of the most conservative of Delaware’s three Counties.
The remark prompted a walk-out of about one-third of those still remaining in the auditorium. However, about one-third of the original overflow crowd had already walked out when Ross rose to speak, led by WGMD news/opinion talk show host Bill Colley. As the conservative faithful exited, Paula Manalakos, wife of Delaware State Representative Nick Manalakos was over heard stating “there go the Christians”. Paula Manalakos ironically works for the Delaware State Republican Committee, and her comment is telling of the disdain for conservatives within the Delaware Republican Party.
Ross then appealed to the clock, cut off his rather short remarks by saying he would answer further questions out in the hallway, then almost immediately ran away from the meeting and left the Carter Building of the Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown.
As the invited speaker for the evening, Ross followed a conservative take-over of the Sussex County GOP, in which the voting members voted 44 to 32 to demand the resignation of County GOP Chair Ron Sams, perceived by conservatives to be a Tom Ross ally and agent.
In the absence of both the Chair and Vice Chair, the Secretary called the meeting to order and nominated Judge Bill Lee to serve as Chairman for the evening’s meeting. Vance Phillips was also nominated, and was elected as Chair. In a well-choreographed series of moves, an alternative agenda was adopted for the meeting, the entire Rules Committee was disbanded and Brent Wangen appointed as the new Chair of the Rules Committee, and the resolution was passed for Ron Sams’ resignation. The resolution is non-binding.
Conservatives now running the meeting attemped to adopt new bylaws, previously attempted last month, but Brent Wangen as Parliamentarian conceded that the motion was out of order as the issue was still in referral to the Rules Committee. The meeting ran smoothly under Vance Phillips — taking on the appearance of a possible audition of Phillips for County Chair.
Party Chair Ross began his remarks by indirectly appealing for unity. He mildly protested the earlier resolution for Ron Sams’ resignation by arguing that condemning another Republican does not help elect Republicans. Yet Ross did not apologize for condemning Christine O’Donnell — the Party’s official nominee in both 2008 and 2010 — as a fellow Republican. Just as Ross did the previous night at the Christiana Mill Creek Regional GOP meeting, Ross stated conservatives are entitled to their opinions, but not the facts in regards to the what the Party leadership did during the election cycle. At the Christiana Mill Creek meeting on Tuesday, Ross expanded on his comments stating that it was his responsibility to (derail Christine O’Donnell) for the sake of the Republican Party. In that upstate meeting, Ross refused to apologize for the comments and actions and stated those comments and actions were the right thing to do.
Then Ross sought to soft-soak the 2010 election by saying that 2010 did not turn out as anyone had hoped, in a tone of seeking to put the experience behind. He minimized the divisions by stating matter-of-factly that the primary was very divisive, in a tone as if to say these things happen, again encouraging a look to the future.
When Ross took questions after his short remarks, a gentleman began to make a statement consuming a lot of time, and then asked if the Delaware GOP made secret deals with the Democrats and why the DEGOP did not support Christine O’Donnell and Glen Urquhart — who both defeated the Party backed candidates in the primary. Ross answered there were no deals with the Democrats, and insisted that the Party did all that it could to help elect O’Donnell and Urquhart.
Ross then openly accused Christine O’Donnell’s campaign of choosing to attack pundits and the Party instead of working with the Party, at which point the auditorium erupted in boos and catcalls. John Rieley interrupted saying he was the head of O’Donnell’s campaign in Sussex County and he knew personally that it was absolutely not true that the Party worked with the O’Donnell campaign to help O’Donnell win.
Another member than asked why Tom Ross filed a lawsuit against the tea party and Christine O’Donnell (a complaint against Tea Party Express and O’Donnell’s campaign). Ross again sought to downplay these events by saying it was a hard-fought, divisive primary in a conciliatory tone.
After a series of exchanges with the audience, someone called out “Why did you say the dogcatcher comment?” At that point, Ross dramatically abandoned his attempts to reach out to conservatives and insisted angrily “Because it was true!” Ross conspicuously lost his composure and self-control with that comment.
For Delaware conservatives, the dog-catcher comment is the short-hand for the Republican Party’s efforts to attack and sabotage conservative candidates like Christine O’Donnell.
Ironically, Thomas S. Ross himself ran for 3rd Representative District New Castle County Council in 1998 and lost the Republican primary by 27.2% to 72.8%. He then ran the campaign of Christopher J. Castagno, in 2004 for New Castle County Executive, and again lost. Reportedly, Castagno tried about four times to fire Ross, but could not get him on the phone (his own campaign manager). Even more ironically, Castagno’s opponent in 2004 was the very same Chris Coons who beat Tom Ross’ candidate by 58.4% to 41.6% — a surprisingly familiar spread.
Ross’ performance tonight is telling of a Party Chair who has contempt for conservatives and conservative ideals. Furthermore, Ross’ admission and lack of guilt on defaming a fellow Republican is not emblematic of a leader. Because Tom Ross lacks the capacity to be objective and open to conservatives running in a party that nationally is open to conservatives, he must resign. His resignation is the only course of action to heal the Delaware Republican Party, where it can rebuild and move forward to elect conservatives in all three counties.
As of this writing, WGMD has this report on the meeting.