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Herrera Beutler censure on county GOP agenda

Some local Republicans work to oust party chair Smith over controversy

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published: February 24, 2015, 12:00am

The political drama swirling around a vote to rebuke U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler by members of her own party could reach its climax Saturday.

“The censure is on the agenda,” said Clark County Republican Party Chairman Kenny Smith.

But Joseph Wagner, the precinct committee officer behind the original push for the censure vote, is expected to introduce a new twist to the plot. Wagner drafted a substitute measure that would create review committees to “monitor and report” the votes and other actions taken by elected Republicans.

And if that wasn’t enough, at least a couple of Republicans are working to oust Smith from his leadership position.

Smith said his party is making progress.

“The path forward for us is to recognize our differences and learn to have civil discourse,” Smith said, noting that Wagner worked with other precinct committee officers to draft the substitute amendment.

What some Republicans see as progress, others continue to view as a hit to the party’s credibility.

“It’s like ‘Big Brother is watching you,’ ” said Ann Laurier, a former precinct committee officer for the local party.

Wagner’s resolution to censure Herrera Beutler, a Camas Republican, outlined a list of her votes that he believed “established a pattern of voting with Democrats to increase spending, increase the debt and increase regulations.”

“People have to reach across the aisle, even if they don’t want to,” Laurier said.

In 2012, the Libertarian and Tea Party conservatives took hold of several key leadership positions in the Clark County GOP, causing some moderate members of the party to feel marginalized.

If the censure resolution were to pass, the move means Herrera Beutler could be banned from speaking at campaign events sponsored by the Clark County GOP or from being featured in any of the local party’s literature.

A petition circulated by local GOP member Carolyn Crain to oust its current leader states that Smith, despite a “friendly smile and charismatic manner,” has allowed the censure debate to continue, which “further tarnishes and damages the ability of good Republicans everywhere.”

Crain said the censure vote has shown “they are Libertarian and they are out of control.”

“The board we currently have in the Clark County Republican Party is on a witch hunt, and they have not liked Jaime since the beginning,” Crain said.

Brent Boger, a former Clark County Republican Party chairman, said he might just “bring some popcorn and watch” Saturday.

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