Butler Focus: Will the Real G.O.P. Please Stand Up? A National Power Struggle Goes Local.
In one deep-red pocket of rural Pennsylvania, three warring factions each claim to represent the Republican Party. Tensions boiled over in a scuffle over a booth at a farm show.
The New York Times
Jan. 24, 2023
BUTLER, Pa. — Zach Scherer, a 20-year-old car salesman and Republican activist in Pennsylvania’s Butler County, decided to run for a seat on the county commission this year — a move that ordinarily would mean seeking the endorsement of local Republican Party leaders.
In Butler County, this raised an unusual question: Which Republican Party?
Last spring, the officially recognized Butler County Republican Committee was divided by a right-wing grass-roots insurgency, then divided again by a power struggle among the insurgents. There have been a lawsuit, an intervention by the state Republican Party and a dispute over a booth at the local farm show.
Butler, a rural county in western Pennsylvania where Donald J. Trump won nearly twice as many votes as Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020, now has three organizations claiming to be the true tribune of local Republicans. All of them consider the others illegitimate.
“There is, in effect, no committee,” said Al Lindsay, a four-decade veteran of the local party, who was ousted as committee chairman last year.
The partisans in Pennsylvania agree about one thing, if not much else: Their fight is a microcosm of the national struggle for control over the Republican Party, one that began with Mr. Trump but has been inflamed by the party’s weak showing in the midterm elections.
That struggle has played out in national arenas like Kevin McCarthy’s days-long fight to win the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, and in a contentious race for the chair of the Republican National Committee ahead of this week’s meeting.
But it is being fought just as intensely at state and county levels, as Trump loyalists and right-wing activists who took control of party organizations in recent years face resistance from rivals who blame them for the party’s losses in November.
Such conflicts often occur below the radar of even local news outlets. But they are likely to shape state parties’ abilities to raise money, recruit candidates, settle on a 2024 presidential nominee and generally chart a path out of the party’s post-Trump presidency malaise.
Saunas Are Filling Up, but Are They Actually Good for You?How Parenting Today Is Different, and HarderEveryone Wants Your Email Address. Think Twice Before Sharing It.
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
“We believe that the way we’re going to change our national scene is by changing our local committees,” said Bill Halle, the leader of one of the two insurgent factions within the Butler party.
What to Know About the Trump Investigations
Card 1 of 6
Numerous inquiries. Since leaving office, former President Donald J. Trump has been facing several investigations into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:
Classified documents inquiry. The F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s Florida home as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into his handling of classified materials. The inquiry is focused on documents that Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when he left the White House.
Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a comprehensive narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who are conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.
Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. This case could pose the most immediate legal peril for the former president and his associates.
New York State’s civil case. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has accused Mr. Trump, his family business and his three adult children of lying to lenders and insurers, fraudulently inflating the value of his assets. The allegations, included in a sweeping lawsuit, are the culmination of a yearslong civil investigation.
Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether, among other things, Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. As a result of the inquiry, the Trump Organization was convicted on Dec. 6 of tax fraud and other crimes.
Tensions Flare After Midterm Losses
The current rifts date most directly to Mr. Trump’s loss in 2020, when his relentless claims of a stolen election divided Republican leaders between those who took up Mr. Trump’s cause and those who wanted to move on.
In several closely contested states, state party leaders loudly supported his election claims, and backed the Republican candidates who earned Mr. Trump’s endorsements by doing the same. But many of those candidates were extreme or erratic politicians who would go on to lose in November, and their nominations have caused enduring divisions.
In Michigan, major G.O.P. donors pulled back after the state party co-chair, Meshawn Maddock, took the unusual step of openly supporting election deniers favored by Mr. Trump ahead of the party’s nominating convention. Those candidates all lost in a statewide G.O.P. rout in November.
In Georgia, Brian Kemp, the Republican governor seeking re-election, went so far as to build his own political organization separate from the state Republican Party, whose chairman, David Shafer, backed Trump-endorsed Republican primary candidates. Mr. Shafer is among the targets of a special grand jury investigating whether Mr. Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election.
“I think it’s unforgivable,” Jay Morgan, the Georgia party’s executive director in the 1980s, said of Mr. Shafer’s handling of the party. Mr. Morgan, who is now a lobbyist in Atlanta, said he has not recommended that any of his corporate clients donate to the state party. “It breaks my heart,” he said.
Continue reading the main story
Mr. Shafer did not respond to a request for comment.
In Nevada, multiple former officials in the state party have called on its current chair, Michael McDonald, to resign after the party backed several losing election-denying candidates.
“The Republican Party could be great here; it really could,” said Amy Tarkanian, the former chairwoman of the Nevada G.O.P., who was expelled from her county Republican committee after endorsing the Democratic attorney general candidate last summer. “But they made themselves irrelevant with their toxicity.”