Thursday, March 4, 2010

GOP Civil War: McCain vs. Randy Pullen

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 5:02 PM

An interesting story from Hotline.com involving Sen. John McCain and former national Republican committeeman Mike Hellon on one side and current GOP state chair Randy Pullen and current National Republican Committeeman Bruce Ash on the other that we missed last week:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has lost the endorsement of a key leader of his own party, and a behind-the-scenes feud is emerging that could put McCain at odds with GOP activists in his home state.

McCain and the AZ House delegation have agreed to divert money for the party's get-out-the-vote efforts away from the AZ GOP, sources tell Hotline OnCall. The decision comes after a contentious meeting between the McCain camp and top state party officials, according to sources on both sides of the debate.

The decision highlights a contentious relationship between the state's DC delegation and local party leaders back home, a relationship that often works at cross purposes. For years, those close to McCain have sought to oust party chair Randy Pullen, who has a following among the conservative grassroots.

The latest controversy, which has been quietly simmering for months, comes as party leaders prepare for the Nov. midterms. In AZ, the stakes are particularly high; Gov. Jan Brewer (R) faces

re-election and a competitive primary, and the GOP hopes to contest 3 Dem-held House seats.

But with so much money expected to flow through AZ, McCain's team, led by deputy manager Mike Hellon, himself a former AZ GOP chair, has lost confidence in party leadership, and they don't trust Pullen to spend party funds wisely. Those who oppose Pullen accuse him of misspending state party money.

Pullen, on the other hand, believed Hellon and the McCain team wanted too much power and were trying to take control away from the elected party leadership, and that McCain's advisors were continuing a long-running effort to try and force him from office.

After months of preparations, McCain's campaign sat down with Pullen and other top party leaders in AZ for a final session to go over budget plans. McCain's camp wanted total control, according to those who side with Pullen, going so far as to ask for the state party's federal tax ID number in order to gain access to its bank account. Hellon told Pullen he could hand over control or "leave," according to a source in the room.

"It wasn't a request, it was a demand," said Rob Haney, chair of the Maricopa Co. GOP and a Pullen backer who was briefed on the meeting. "They've been trying to get Randy Paullen out of office ever since he was elected."

Pullen refused Hellon's demand and said he wanted control over some staffing and consultant decisions. When McCain's team told him he could not have such control, Pullen, AZ GOP executive director Brett Mecum and RNC member Bruce Ash walked out.

There's more at Hotline.com.

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