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Lane County Republicans Shift Leadership

Thanks to a disagreement over Robert’s Rules of Order, the Lane County Republicans have recently acquired new leadership in the form of chair, vice-chair and secretary to fill the seats of Paul Barnett, Bill Young and Kristy Cooper, who have all resigned. This split happened as the races heat up for three Lane County Commission seats in the May primary.

New Republican Chair Matthew Nelson describes the debate as “a yearlong power struggle essentially between a small group of far-right Republicans.” He says, “To be honest, it was pretty intense.”  

Nelson says despite the disagreements, he valued the former leadership. “I’m very thankful for the work and dedication that they gave,” he continues. 

This local split echoes another divide at the statewide Republican level. Social conservatives skipped the annual Republican Dorchester Conference, where attendees voted on March 8 to endorse a pro-gay marriage ballot measure, and instead held a separate gathering.

However, Nelson did not think the happenings at the Dorchester Conference are a concern. “Dorchester is a conference for moderate Republicans. That’s literally the theme of the conference,” he says. 

County Commissioner races are nonpartisan but fundraising and campaigning tend to occur along party lines. Nelson thinks that voters speaking out about what they want in elected officials will determine the county commissioner races over anything else. 

“I don’t think our elections, or their resignations, are going to affect [the county commissioner race] to be perfectly honest,” Nelson says. 

In an opinion piece in the R-G March 29, Nelson explained that he wanted to change the “Grand Old Party” to the “Great Opportunity Party.” “What I want to do is focus on issues that are important to the community and communicate them better,” Nelson wrote. 

Vice Chair of Lane County Democrats Chris Wig says that it is too early to tell whether Nelson’s leadership will make Republicans stronger or weaker.

“Until the Republicans are able to convince the voters of [their vision of the future], I’m not really interested in the PR piece or who are today’s Republicans,” Wig says.

In the R-G piece, Nelson writes that a “fresh” Republican perspective means Republicans who bike to work, eat “their healthy sustainable lunch at Café Yumm” and fight against unconstitutional legislation.

 Wig says that he does not doubt that Republican individuals come from all walks of life. “I think it’s important to look at what our candidates stand for and what our platforms stand for,” Wig says. — Kevin Sullivan and Camilla Mortensen