by Janet Metz
As many are aware from sensationalized stories in the press Kolby LaMarche has resigned from the Burlington GOP as well as the State Party. I have been hesitant to comment publicly on this situation but cannot let stand his attacks, and those of others, on our party leadership and members.
Kolby was from a four-year avid supporter of President Trump, very anxious to attend the RNC nominating convention as a page to the Vermont delegation last summer. He transformed in a few short months into a person fond of smearing in social media and the press good people who first engaged him in politics, nurtured and supported him, shared in his important life events, and counted him as a good friend. “A delusional mob” he called us in a recent email exchange. In his resignation letter, he claimed we “fan the flames of civil unrest by spewing racist dog whistles and supporting the elements of white supremacy found within Vermont communities. “ Really?
Kolby was asked to resign by his committee members because of his caustic and over-the-top public pronouncements, as well as his dereliction of duty. In addition to his constant nasty comments on social media and in the press Kolby upset many Burlington party members by unilaterally deciding not to run candidates in Burlington’s elections next month. His rationale was that the city GOP has been so tarnished by President Trump that it must be remade by him before participating in the electoral process again. His action was not discussed at a formal committee meeting, indeed he did not call one, so members of the group were not given an opportunity to discuss the issue and vote.
Many GOP members are puzzled at this sudden and radical change in Kolby’s behavior. Here’s my take. In the fall he fell in with a circle of GOP members who have been unrelenting in issuing gratuitously nasty and patently false social media attacks on President Trump, his VTGOP supporters and VTGOP Chair Deb Billado for years. They view it as a campaign strategy to endear themselves to Democrats and Progressives. It’s also a story of pique over having their candidate for party chair defeated by Chair Deb Billado in 2017.
Here’s former executive director of the State GOP Jeff Bartley:
“State leadership, almost as a whole, has been focused on removing those that disagree with them from party positions for nearly four years. It’s always been about personalities with the current leadership. That’s not party building …’”
This gentleman had worked for the prior state chair. Deb Billado won the election fair and square because of her long-time service to the party against an opponent who was an unknown at the time but backed by the anti-Trump crowd. When Deb assumed office, she installed her own team, as was her right, with I might add a much-reduced administrative budget, and he was let go. I don’t know of anyone who else who has been removed.
By the way, here’s a current example of Jeff Bartley’s idea of party building:
This crowd blames any electoral defeats on President Trump rather than looking inward. They are rumored to be plotting to defeat Chair Billado when the party reorganizes in November. The attacks are stepping up and Kolby has been used, cynically in my opinion, as their most public mouthpiece.
There is a larger issue here. Party unity. How can we move forward to elect more Republicans in Montpelier with this kind of snarky, hyperbolic rhetoric flying around?
Over one hundred twelve thousand Vermonters voted for President Trump last November. They are not racists, homophobes, or extremists as Kolby infers. They are hardworking nurses, baseball coaches, small business owners, wait staff, lawyers (even Democrats) who cherish traditional Republican values of loyalty to country, personal responsibility and freedoms bestowed by the Bill of Rights. Many are afraid to admit their vote for fear of being doxed and possibly losing their livelihoods in Vermont’s toxic political climate. But they are out there. The energy in our party is with them, hence they are increasingly being voted into leadership positions. Insulting them is antithetical to advancing the Republican cause.
As a county chair, it has become impossible for me to continue to try to silence members who are understandably angry at having lies and insults hurled at them publicly. Governor Scott’s recent characterization of them as “white supremacists “ and “racists” broke the camel’s back. There is now a petition circulating asking for the Governor to step down that has been signed by thousands. We need to fix this if we are to succeed in 2022.
This state and our country face serious social and economic challenges. Engaging in petty name calling instead of constructive dialogue breeds discord and mistrust. We all recognize that unity is imperative to a successful political party, but it does not mean conformity of thought. There are ideological differences in our party as with the Democrats, but we should be able to set aside those differences and personal animosities to advocate for policies from which all Vermonters will prosper. Tolerance starts at home. The more populist elements of the VTGOP deserve an apology and a commitment to working together in good faith.
(The author is chair of the Chittenden County Committee of the Vermont Republican Party)