CONCORD, N.H. (The Blaze/AP) -- The state's embattled GOP chairman says he won't resign despite pressure to quit from top party leaders.
Jack Kimball, a tea party activist, says he represents a movement that's much larger than him and that's crucial to the party's future. HuffPo describes him as "a 64-year-old small business owner from Dover who founded a Tea Party group in 2009," and who calls himself "the first Tea Partier to be elected chairman of the Republican Party in the nation."
Kimball held firm even as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and a majority of the party's executive board called for new leadership in a letter dated Wednesday. HuffPo explains the letter:
The letter to Kimball bore 22 names from the 36-member state executive committee in support of a vote on his removal, including the handwritten signatures of the top seven Republican officials in the state: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Frank Guinta, Rep. Charlie Bass, state Senate President Peter Bragdon, state House Speaker Bill O'Brien, national committeewoman Phyllis Woods and national committeeman Steve Duprey. Only 19 votes are needed to oust Kimball as state party chairman.
We respect Jack Kimball, and appreciate all the personal time and effort he has made on behalf of the New Hampshire Republican Party. But to ensure that all of the party's energy and resources are solely focused on electing Republicans, we believe it is time to move beyond this serious distraction," the elected leaders said in a separate statement.
“Therefore, we call upon Jack to put the best interests of New Hampshire Republicans first and step aside as chairman of the party."
The board will vote Sept. 1 on whether to remove Kimball.
Some Republicans are unhappy about recent GOP losses in special elections for House seats. Some raised concerns about the lack of cash in the party's accounts. Two events in recent weeks coalesced support for Kimball's ouster.
At a special election in Barrington two weeks ago, Kimball signed a petition he thought was in support of giving a Libertarian Party candidate access to a ballot line. It was actually a petition to give Libertarians broader access to ballots in general.
Last week, Kimball fired popular GOP executive director Will Wrobleski.
Former GOP state chairman Fergus Cullen said Kimball's signing of the Libertarian petition was "a critical tipping point."
"Firing Wrobleski compounded the problem," Cullen said. "Both got people saying he's got to go."
Rep. Shawn Jasper, a Hudson Republican, said he found it "horrifying that a Republican Party chairman thought it was a good idea to have another candidate, not a Republican, run against a Republican."
"That was simply it for me," Jasper said. "It appears quite frankly to me at this point that he's trying to destroy the Republican Party."
Kimball says ousting him will create a deep divide in the party. He says the party's lean coffers are a result of his efforts to retire old debt.
At a press conference Thursday, Kimball stressed his tea party affiliation and blamed the rift on differences between the tea party and what he described as "the establishment."
"One of the major goals of my chairmanship is to help the party move into the future, but sadly there are some who are still stuck in the past," Kimball said.
Bill Foley, an executive committee member, confirmed the Tea Party vs. establishment rift in an e-mail to HuffPo. He wrote "the Chairman continues to refuse to reach out except to a very narrow group of what I consider to be radical fringe element of the Party who have overestimated their value and importance in the last election, and currently he continues to blame his predecessors and find coup[s] and conspiracies wherever he looks." [Emphasis added]
Kimball said the request for his resignation "comes as quite a shock to me." He remained adamant that he will not step down.
"You've got a small core of folks who are not happy I got elected," Kimball said.
Kimball defended his fundraising capabilities. He said he raised $191,392 in the first half of this year, calling it the second-best performance for the first two quarters in the past eight years.
He confirmed he'd been visited by O'Brien and Republican activist Jennifer Horn, who sought his resignation and told him the Republican Governors Association was prepared to donate $100,000 to state GOP coffers if he resigned.
"I won't stand for that kind of deal-making, and neither will the voters," Kimball said Thursday. "They deserve to know the truth."