- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
An internal fight is raging within the Maryland Republican Party as a former state party chairwoman and the former chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation vie to serve as the state’s representative on the Republican National Committee.
The election to choose a RNC committeeman and committeewoman is scheduled for April 28 at the state GOP’s convention on Solomons Island. Joyce Terhes, the state’s longtime committeewoman, announced she was not seeking re-election.
Unlike in the past, this year’s election by the state’s county central committee members is hotly contested, with both sides accusing the other of running smear campaigns.
Audrey Scott, who served as Maryland Republican Committee chairwoman when former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sought re-election in 2010, is seen as the establishment pick, while Nicolee Ambrose, 37, has campaigned across the state to meet with grass-roots activists.
Scott said some party activists are using the election to support Ambrose to settle old scores with her, particularly for invoking the national party’s Rule No. 11 that was viewed as a backdoor way of supporting Ehrlich in his primary contest against tea party favorite Brian Murphy.
The party prohibits providing funds and other resources to a candidate unless the candidate has no primary challenger or the party chair agrees to waive the prohibition.
The election will be decided by about 200 Republican Party leaders from across the state. The committee members help set national policy for the party.
Scott said those who criticized her because of the 2010 campaign do not realize she had no other choice, or the state would have lost important resources from the national party that helped open field offices statewide.
“I’m very encouraged by the support I do have,” Scott said. “It has gotten, I wouldn’t say more competitive, I’d say more contentious. There’s been some really — how can I say this as diplomatically as possible? — there’s been some very misleading and unwelcome — what’s a nice word? — nasty emails that have come out.”
Scott said she has been called a “dictator” and worse for her past decisions, and is surprised by the nasty tone Ambrose’s supporters have used against her.
“I am totally amazed. I can’t compare it to anything in the past. And again very disappointed,” Scott said. “There’s no place in this election for this.”
Scott called the Ambrose campaign an “anti-establishment movement.”
“I’ve always thought experience and stature are good things,” Scott said.
Ambrose said Scott’s supporters have made the race personal, while she has focused on the issues.
A quick Internet search shows a website was set up by a possible Scott supporter who refers to the blond-haired Ambrose as the “Fraudulent Fraulein.”
Ambrose said she wants to unite grass-roots activists across the state and loves the tea party movement’s enthusiasm.
“I’m sick of Maryland being a one-party state,” she said. “That does nothing but hurt every single citizen of Maryland and there’s some simple, clear things we can do to create a two-party state in Maryland, and I see this committee role as one of the ways to accomplish that.”
Among those supporting Ambrose is former Montgomery County GOP chairman James F. Shalleck, who was unable to get on the 2010 election ballot for attorney general after being blocked by one county chairman. Shalleck blames Scott for letting Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) run unopposed and for not fielding candidates for every office.
“Nicolee is an excellent candidate,” Shalleck said. “She brings a breath of fresh air to our party.”
In some ways, the fight between the two sides is similar to the struggle going on in the Republican Party at a national level, said political science professor emeritus Matthew Crenson.
“It’s a fight between the tea party wing of the Republicans and the rest of the Republicans — only in miniature,” Crenson said.