Jack Kimball’s meteoric rise to lead the New Hampshire Republican Party ended with an equally expeditious fall Thursday night.
Just minutes before the state’s GOP executive committee members were expected to remove him, Kimball said he will step down so that he would not be a “obstacle” to his party, according to activists in the room. The announcement came as a surprise, as Kimball had repeatedly vowed to fight efforts to remove him.
“This was a very difficult decision. I really, really cannot stand in the way any longer,” Kimball said, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “People were looking at me as an obstacle to party unity and I don’t want that.”
Sources said 30 of the 36 executive committee members were prepared to vote Kimball out if he did not step aside.
The committee accepted the resignation and closed the meeting, which had only been in session for 20 minutes. Vice chairman Wayne McDonald will temporarily take over as chairman.
The state GOP’s top five Republican elected officials — state House speaker Bill O’Brien, state Senate president Peter Bragdon, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta — have been calling for Kimball’s resignation, and as the besieged chairman thrashed and fought to stay in power, the majority of the executive committee sided with them.
“Outgoing chairman Jack Kimball gave the New Hampshire Republican Party an invaluable gift tonight,” the five top officials said in a statement. “He put the best interests of the NH GOP ahead of all other considerations, and we are grateful for that.”
The grievances against Kimball, a tea party activist and political newbie, had been building. Many worried about his fundraising and use of party funds, as the N.H. GOP witnessed one of its bank accounts depleted to just $1,300. The chair had overseen demoralizing special election defeats and signed a petition to place the Libertarian Party on the 2012 ballot. The party’s finance chairman, businessman Bill Binnie, wasn’t even formally named to the post until this summer. Recently, Kimball fired the party’s well-liked executive director, Will Wrobleski.
When confronted with donors’ concerns, Kimball went public with allegations that the Republican Governors Association had offered the New Hampshire GOP $100,000 for his resignation. The RGA denied the report, but suddenly the GOP infighting was thrust into the national spotlight.
Days later, under pressure to step down, he called a press conference and refused to go quietly.
This week Kimball sent the executive committee a memo outlining how he intended to turn the party around — pledging to retire debt, improve fundraising, hire new staff and revamp the party’s infrastructure. But it was too late.
Even Kimball’s allies, who insisted that many of the party’s problems predated his tenure and that Kimball just needed more time to learn how to lead, were resigned to a change in leadership just before the executive committee’s vote.
“Questions about his management were raised and raised and raised with Jack, over and over again in private at the executive committee. Ironically I’m the guy who defended him the most,” said national committeeman Steve Duprey, who became Kimball’s most outspoken critic in recent weeks.
Kimball began his political career two year ago with some eye-popping signs outside his office-cleaning company on a busy road. They read, “Obama Hands Off Our Healthcare” and “Congress — We don’t want socialism.” As the Obama administration moved forward with a loan modification program in the depths of the subprime mortgage crisis, he posted, “Let’s All Stop Paying Our Mortgages.”
A local newspaper took notice and soon he landed an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
Kimball had co-founded the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, a group devoted to supporting the troops. And with his newfound fame, grassroots conservatives and 9/12 Project supporters flocked to him.
In 2010 Kimball ran for governor on a small government, fewer taxes platform, but lost the primary to the better-known former New Hampshire health commissioner John Stephen. Late last year, he announced his intention to seek the party chairmanship, but Kimball was again seen as a longshot against Juliana Bergeron, former Gov. John Sununu’s handpicked successor.
Yet, bolstered by the growing influence of the tea party and its newly elected state committee members, the outsider squeaked out a narrow victory, 222 to 199, in January. Several GOP presidential candidates, including front runner Mitt Romney, called Kimball to congratulate him.
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