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Vt. GOP Chairman Not to Seek Re-Election

Montpelier — Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jack Lindley said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to the post and will instead back John MacGovern, of Windsor.

Lindley had been considering a bid to remain chairman despite a llness that left him hospitalized for about a month. He was released from the hospital and returned home last week.

As recently as Wednesday morning, political allies including Mark Snelling, the GOP’s treasurer, said Lindley was planning on trying to retain his chairmanship at the party’s state convention Saturday.

“Yes, it’s my expectation that he’s going to run,” Snelling said.

But Wednesday evening Lindley announced via email his intention to step aside and back MacGovern, best known for losing to independent Sen. Bernard Sanders last fall.

“I’m writing to let you know that although my recovery is going well, I will not be a candidate for Chairman of the Vermont Republican Party. My time and energy is best spent working on building my strength and fully recovering,” Lindley wrote.

Even before the illness, some Republicans were organizing to replace Lindley and Snelling. Lindley has drawn fire from moderates within the party like Lt. Gov. Phil Scott who believe he has aligned the state party too closely with the national Republican Party.

Scott has thrown his support for chairman to former Rutland Rep. David Sunderland, who is widely viewed as more conservative than the lieutenant governor.

Just days ahead of the GOP’s state convention in Barre, the factions within the party appear to remain strong and headed for a showdown. Lindley, in his email, sought support for a full slate of party officers.

“I strongly support and endorse John MacGovern for Chairman of the Vermont Republican Party and I’m asking you to do me the personal favor of supporting John MacGovern for Chair, Brady Toensing for Vice Chair, Jackie Barnett for Secretary, Mark Snelling for Treasurer, Wendy Wilton for At Large, Randy Brock for At Large and Kevin Beal for Vice Chair of Chairs,” Lindley wrote. “This team will lead the Vermont Republican Party forward on the principles we all believe.”

Toensing, a lawyer, has represented former Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie as well as Jerry Dodge, the neighbor involved in a land dispute with Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin over the summer.

Wilton ran unsuccessfully for treasurer in 2012, and Brock, a former state auditor and state senator, tried to unseat Shumlin last year.

Despite the current political maneuvering, Snelling said he expects the party to emerge from Saturday’s state convention and reorganization more unified, with all factions accepting the outcome of elections for party positions.

“I’d like to see us come together and be unified,” he said. “I think there is an important message for Republicans to talk about in the coming legislative session, and I think it’s important for the Republican Party entity to come together to deliver that message. I believe that is possible going forward.”

The Vermont GOP can make room for a broad scope of ideas, according to Snelling.

“Phil (Scott) says he wants to grow the Republican Party, and I take him at his word,” Snelling said. “We need to grow the numbers and we know we need to grow the unity. I believe that we can have a big tent and we can accommodate people who have differing points of view and who have different strategies.”

The Progressive Party will also meet Saturday in Berlin and is set to elect a new leader. Chairwoman Martha Abbott is stepping aside after 12 years. Former Burlington City Councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak is so far running unopposed.

Robert Millar, executive director of the Progressive Party, said he expects a smooth election of officers this weekend.

“There really isn’t a whole lot of competition so far,” he said. “There’s usually one or two people who put their name forward at a meeting, people who decide at the last minute or don’t like a candidate once they get there. But it’s usually not an organized insurgency, and I wouldn’t anticipate that this time around.”

Millar said he expects Saturday’s meeting to focus heavily on the topic of divesting state funds from fossil fuels. The meeting will feature a video message from environmental activist Bill McKibben.

The Vermont Democratic Party, meanwhile, unanimously elected Chairwoman Dottie Deans last weekend to a full term. She began serving in March after Chairman Jake Perkinson stepped down.

Deans will continue guiding a party that has seen widespread success in Vermont. Democrats control all statewide offices with the exception of lieutenant governor and hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.