Factions face off in Fayette GOP

The ongoing internal war for control of the Fayette County Republican Party is in full swing. And with the election of local convention delegates and alternates on Feb. 9 and the election of officers in early March, many of the long-time established group of local Republicans have come out swinging by rebranding themselves as the Fayette Citizens for an Independent Republican Party (FCIRP).

The Fayette County Republican Party in the past few years has contained two distinct factions — the local established Republicans who have dominated the party for years and the newcomer group composed largely of tea party adherents who first came on the scene in 2009.

Though not all members of the local established group are affiliated with FCIRP, Fayette County Republican Party 1st Vice Chair Paul Ploener identified himself as spokesman for the new group. Ploener said the branding of FCIRP is essentially a marketing strategy, with the membership of the new group coming largely, but not exclusively, from the established Republican ranks.

So what is the marketing strategy designed to add to the ranks of the established group in time to hold onto its power in the upcoming elections of delegates, alternates and party officers? A FCIRP in a Feb. 3 statement said, “The choices that we make will determine whether our Fayette County Republican Party will remain an independent, grass roots organization or whether it will become captive to political bosses and special interests.”

But there is more, and it is what is partly at the core of the dispute between local Republicans. It is what Ploener and FCIRP are calling the Harold Bost/Bob Ross Tea party, otherwise known at the Fayette County Issues Tea Party.

“This incarnation of the tea party locally is the brain child of Harold Bost and Bob Ross,” Ploener said. “Harold is the financial backer and Bob Ross is the organizational administrator. Harold Bost has a political agenda and he has put his money behind it. He has been successful in electing hand-picked candidates to the Fayette County Commission, Fayette County Board of Education and Fayetteville City Council and the mayor’s office. Bost now wants to put his hand-picked candidates in charge of the Fayette County Republican Party.”

As for the newcomer tea party members of the local Republican Party, member and Realtor Leslie Edwards said she was willing to weigh in on the new “establishment” branding and the ongoing internal struggle.

“Because some of the ‘new people’ have questioned the ‘old Guard’ they are viciously attacked,” Edwards said.

“A group of us has worked very hard with Denise Ognio, whose job it is to find and train delegates to the county convention with a goal of bringing new people into the party. Although there are 813 delegate slots available, everyone should be working toward the same goal but the longtime party members see it as a threat,” Edwards said.

As for the local Republican slugfest, it remains to be seen how it will unfold in the coming weeks.