Infighting roils local Republican Party

Chairman says ‘bullies’ seek to divide group, hurting its reputation

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

When David Gellatly was elected to lead the Clark County Republican Party in December, his primary goal was to unify the party, which had increasingly devolved into bitter divisiveness.

It’s not going so well.

Lately, social media has put some of the fighting on full display.

Mark Engleman, who described himself as a “local anti-corruption” activist, warned that he was ready to help orchestrate Gellatly’s removal. In the Facebook post, he described Gellatly as an “arrogant man-child” who storms in with “ham-fisted leadership, extremely poor judgment, and intolerable arrogance.”

Yeah, Gellatly said, it’s not going the way he had hoped.

“I guess certain people in the beginning that I thought were excited to work with me, they felt like they were losing their control over the party,” Gellatly said. “And they didn’t like that feeling, so they went on attack.”

And Gellatly isn’t playing a wallflower role.

He posted recently about what he described as a small group of people who have gone out of their way to divide the party, having no effect on elections but damaging the party brand. He added that because of this group, the party has become the laughing stock in Olympia with the state party.

“This small radical ideology of anti-electeds has no influence over anything in the county, but managed to manipulate the numbers on the central committee to make a fake grass-roots, but in reality, top-down authority where few people controlled the voting party,” Gellatly wrote.

Rick Halle responded that most Republicans across the state ask him how grass-roots elements managed to take over the Clark County Republicans, in the hopes of emulating their actions.

“Better wise up,” Halle posted in response to Gellatly. “I already told you that you were out of your element and should step back until you are better prepared. It is beyond that now though.”

In 2012, there was a grass-roots effort to elect anti-establishment Republicans to precinct committee officer positions. Before Gellatly’s win, there was a big push to return the board to control of the more so-called established Republicans, but many believed it failed.

Gellatly, who replaced Kenny Smith, said he initially aligned with the grass-roots group but was also hoping to embrace the big-tent philosophy that many Republicans espouse.

Gellatly said he felt blind-sided by some of the actions of those considered to be part of the grass-roots effort.

“When I started working with other people and not attacking every public official and not taking the direction they wanted the party, I was on the receiving end … And I began to question the integrity and reality of what they had been telling me about other people,” Gellatly said.

Gellatly said he was reticent about “getting into the trenches” on social media, but decided to take a stand. Gellatly aligns with many of their conservative principles, but said by ousting and criticizing every public official who doesn’t agree with their every stance, the party’s influence is shrinking.

He said he believes there is a small, vocal minority that is trying to take the party in another direction. But, he said, the majority of people are ready to unite the party.

“I’ve never gotten so many thank-you cards and messages than I have in the past few days,” he said after standing up to what he described as “the bullies.”

Gellatly recently posted on Facebook, “Sometimes to unite people for something great, you have to remove those that divided them in the first place.”

To which Kelly Hinton, a well-known conservative blogger, responded, “Indeed. When are you up for election again?”