State Gop Head Says He Intends To Stay Put

Pelura Confident He Has Votes To Stop His Opponents

August 05, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

More than two weeks after Maryland Republicans met behind closed doors and voted to express "no confidence" in leader James Pelura, the state GOP chairman insists he's not going anywhere. And, he says, he has the votes to ensure that he isn't forced out.

"I am not resigning," Pelura declared in an interview.

While the executive committee, made up of 30 statewide and county officers, voted against Pelura during a July meeting, the only way to remove the party chairman is by a two-thirds' vote of the much larger state convention. Pelura said his supporters have indicated to him that they have lined up 100 convention members who committed to remain on his side - enough to stop his opponents. A convention is scheduled for November, though the executive committee could call a special convention before then.

Pelura, a veterinarian, has held onto the volunteer post despite calls for his resignation.

Legislative leaders have complained that Pelura has been openly critical of elected Republicans. They also have accused him of meddling in policy matters while falling short on traditional chairman activities, such as voter registration and fundraising.

The embattled chairman has defended his record, and he has served during a difficult period for Republicans as the party suffered electoral defeats and financial problems.

The party has $10,000 in debt remaining on a line of credit and has been ordered by the Maryland State Board of Elections to repay $77,500 in contributions from Michael S. Steele, former lieutenant governor and now chairman of the Republican National Committee. Elections officials said the contributions from Steele's campaign account exceeded the legal limit or were improperly recorded.

Pelura said he has asked the RNC for financial help but added that he wouldn't necessarily characterize the request as a bailout. "I always ask the RNC for money; every state chairman does," he explained. Besides, he said, he has pretty good connections at the national party.

"I know Michael very well," Pelura said, referring to Steele. "I can say, 'Hey Michael, I need help.' "

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