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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Clark County GOP removes three board members at meeting

By , Columbian politics reporter

As Katja Delevar describes the situation, the grass-roots Republicans are out and the rubber-stamping Republicans move on.

Delevar is referring to a Tuesday night meeting of Clark County Republican Party precinct committee officers where the agenda was simple: consider a petition to remove State Committeeman Joe Wagner, Treasurer Suzanne Gerhardt, Secretary Karen Trumbull, and herself, the party’s state committeewoman.

The meeting was characterized by Chair David Gellatly as the turning point for the party. Either the aforementioned board members would be removed, or he and Vice Chair Leslie Meharry would resign Saturday.

The PCOs in attendance, 137 of them, voted to remove Wagner, Gerhardt and Delevar from office. Trumbull avoided removal by one vote.

“The will of the PCOs ruled, and I was unelected,” Delevar said.

Gerhardt said the vote was close but ultimately, “the big government Republicans did a better job getting their team out last night.”

Many are characterizing the meeting as fair, with a specific nod to temporary meeting chair Kirby Wilbur, a former Washington Republican Party chair.

“There could have been a lot more heat and a lot louder voices if I was the one trying to control the dialogue in the meeting,” Gellatly said.

PCO Ann Donnelly said Wilbur was respected by both sides — an unusual united front given the party’s recent history of infighting.

“He is very authoritative, but also I thought just with sensitivity to people’s feelings,” Donnelly said.

The meeting lasted about three hours, with time allocated to Wagner, Gerhardt, Trumbull and Delevar to make their case. Delevar said the group calls itself the “Fearless Four.” She agreed that the meeting was “somewhat fair.”

“They shouldn’t have had us go first so we didn’t have a chance to rebut,” she said.

After Wagner, Delevar and Gerhardt were removed, the PCOs voted in their replacements. Joel Mattila was approved as new state committeeman, Stacie Jesser as state committeewoman and Joseph Delli Gatti as treasurer. Gellatly said he’s excited to work with the new members and guide the party forward.

PCO Steve Nelson said he felt the meeting went as well as could be expected.

“There were of course some tensions,” Nelson said. “In the end, I think the body did what was best for the party. There is a lot of healing to do, but I can see a bright future as we look to build on what unites us.”

Donnelly echoed Nelson’s comments.

“I think we’ll be able to put this behind us, and I think the people that are in there are extremely well-tested for being highly collegial,” she said.

What’s next

With three of the four board members removed, Gellatly said he will keep his seat. He said he used to get along with Trumbull, and expects a working relationship in the future.

“If it was somebody else (who remained on the board), it might have been a different story,” Gellatly said. “I think we can work through our differences.”

There was also a resolution proposed by the Fearless Four to remove Gellatly as chair at the next board meeting, Oct. 21.

“The previous board had made a resolution to do that. That board doesn’t exist now,” he said. “I don’t see this current board moving forward with that.”

Instead, Gellatly hopes the meetings will be a little quieter and the party can actually get some work done. What does that mean for any remaining members who might have a bone to pick with the chair?

“We’re a big tent,” he said. “Just because a small portion tries to push out everybody else doesn’t mean we’re going to push out all those individuals either.”

Columbian politics reporter