The Clark County Republican Party underwent a shift Thursday, when a group of newly-elected precinct committee officers replaced party leadership with anti-establishment candidates.
The change was orchestrated by the PCO Liberty Alliance, a grass-roots group of Tea Party advocates, libertarian Republicans, and values voters who primarily supported Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum during the Republican presidential primaries. Many within the alliance aggressively campaigned for Republican PCO seats in the Aug. 7 election -- and won.
They put that clout to work Thursday.
"Basically, the Liberty Alliance took over the Clark County Republican Party last night," outgoing Republican Party Chairwoman Stephanie McClintock said Friday. She added that she had been ready for a fight with Democrats this election season, but she hadn't anticipated a fight with her fellow Republicans.
The new chairwoman of the party is Lynda Wilson, who is active in the local Tea Party group, We the People Vancouver. Wilson has served as a delegate to the Clark County Republican Convention twice, and as a delegate to GOP state and national conventions, according to her bio on the PCO Liberty Alliance website.
Wilson did not immediately return a call to The Columbian on Friday afternoon.
Steven Nelson, who describes himself as a "constitutional Republican," was elected as vice chairman. Nelson, who works at a consulting firm in Vancouver, is a board member of We the People Vancouver and has a certificate from the Thomas
Jefferson Center for Constitutional Studies, according to his bio.
The alliance has been criticized by some moderate Republicans as being too extreme. Earlier in the week, Brent Boger, a former chairman of the Clark County Republicans, took the group to task on his Facebook page, calling them "self-righteous ideologues" who are out of step with most Republicans in the country.
Boger left the party over the summer but still considers himself a Republican.
"Adherence to rigid ideology and refusing to compromise always results in sacrificing the 'better' in the quixotic hope of getting the 'best,'" Boger wrote. "You need to understand that the views of … Republican voters are much closer to mine than they are to the PCO Liberty Alliance."
McClintock, who was running Thursday night to be vice chairwoman, took her loss in stride. She said she enjoyed her time as chairwoman but the time commitment was keeping her from her family.
"I have no regrets; I did my best," McClintock said. "We live in a democracy. People had a chance to vote which way they wanted to take the party, and they had the majority. That's how democracy works. We'll see what they do."
The Republican reorganization meeting took place at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver.
Democratic leadership changes
Leadership also changed hands last week for the Clark County Democratic Party. On Monday, the party elected D. Michael Heywood to chair its central committee and Liz Campbell as vice chairwoman.
Heywood said the party's goals include widening its base, getting more Democrats elected to county government positions in 2014, and electing more Democrats from Clark County to the state legislature.
"We want to rebuild the party and get back to a better balance of Democrats and Republicans" in county government, he said. "We've got to do a lot of organization and broadening of the party base."
Heywood replaces outgoing chairwoman Kathy Lawrence. Campbell, the new vice chairwoman, was a delegate at this year's Democratic National Convention.
Democrats' party reorganization takes place every other year. About 75 percent of the party's PCOs attended the meeting at the Teamsters Hall in Vancouver.