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Updated Jul 1, 2011, 9:14 am
Brian Miller may be still the chairman of the Pima GOP, but he's without the keys to his kingdom.
Or a checkbook.
And the party's ordered him not to speak in public.
The Pima County Republican Party's executive committee told Miller on Thursday night to stop speaking for the party, to return its checkbook and credit cards, not enter into contracts, and to return the keys to party headquarters. Party leaders voted 10-2 on the resolution.
The move effectively ends—at least for the moment—Miller's leadership of the county party, although he refuses to resign.
Instead, he quoted John Belushi's Bluto from "Animal House" in a statement posted on Facebook: "What? Over? Did you say 'over'? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
"They asked for my resignation on grounds that it is the right thing to do for the party because... well, because they say so. I declined," Miller wrote.
Miller asked party members for support on the social networking website.
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The move is "a political witchhunt," he said in an interview Friday morning, saying "there's no room for differing views" in the Republican Party.
The call for his resignation is a way of "avenging old political scores," Miller said
Calls to other Republican officials were not immediately returned Friday morning.
Before taking the chairmanship in December, Miller sought the GOP nomination in the CD 8 race. He received 7 percent of the vote, even though he had withdrawn and endorsed Jonathan Paton days prior to the August vote. The primary nod went to Jesse Kelly, who lost a close race to incumbent Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Miller, a pilot in the Air Force Reserve, has caught flak from some Republicans for supporting a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and for saying that laws prohibiting demonstrations outside funerals abridge free speech.
The party has fractured over Miller's statements critical of police tactics in the May 5 SWAT raid that killed ex-Marine Joe Guerena.
The county chair sent out an official GOP email in May titled "We are all Jose Guerena," writing "It is my hope that this tragic event will lead to a renewed discussion of the policies that routinely lead to heavily armed and militarized local police invading private homes and a renewed interest in the civil liberties codified in our Bill of Rights."
Last month, the party forced Miller to retract a statement on a radio talk show calling Guerena's death "murder."
"It was never my intention to besmirch those officers, and it is my understanding that they were, indeed, following the procedures they were given," Miller wrote in a June 3 email.
"Their job is to follow established policies, protocols and guidelines they have been given," Miller wrote. "My concern is with the policies themselves, and whether or not there are better ways for law enforcement, not only here in Pima County but throughout the United States, to conduct themselves so as to minimize risk to the officers, suspects and innocent civilians who may be caught up in police actions."
Miller wouldn't comment on the Guerena incident Friday, calling it "water under the bridge" as a party issue. "I think we've addressed that," he said.
Miller "has made numerous public statements and comments indicating a distrust of Pima County and Tucson law enforcement agencies," the GOP's executive committee said in an email Friday morning.
"The misimpression created by Brian Miller, the current Chair of the County Committee, is not the policy of the County Committee and is in no manner adopted by the Executive Committee," said a resolution passed by the Republicans.
"Police militarization is not new, but difficult to discuss publicly," Miller said on Facebook on May 15. "LE is like the military: when u criticize policy, u r tagged "unpatriotic" / "weak on crime". Since I've gone from "unpatriotic" / "treasonous" last year to "courageous" / "principled" this year on Afghan conflict, I may as well dive into this can of worms that PCSD has opened."
The GOP body told Miller:
(I)t is hereby resolved by the Executive Committee, that
1. Article V Section 2 of the Bylaws remains in full effect and Brian Miller, the current Chair of the County Committee, is directed to cease and desist making any public statement or comment, as Chair of the County Committee, unless prior authorization to act as the official spokesman for the County Committee for a specific issue or item has been expressly granted by the Executive Committee, and
2. Article VII Section 1 of the Bylaws remains in full effect and in order to exercise the fiduciary responsibility of the Executive Committee under that section, Brian Miller, the current Chair of the County Committee, is directed to immediately take the following actions:
a. Return any and all County Committee banking account checks and credit cards to the County Committee Treasurer,
b. Cease and desist, while acting as agent or representative of the County Committee or Executive Committee, from entering into any contracts, agreements or financial obligations that create any amount of financial liability for the County Committee,
c. Return all keys to the County Committee headquarters offices.
d. Return medallions and all other property and documents to the County Committee headquarters offices.
On Facebook, Miller said:
They passed a resolution (which includes factual errors and innuendos) that they claim - under the guise of the executive committee's authority to set policy - relieves me of much of my authority. (This is where they demanded my keys.)
They approved an agenda item for the upcoming special meeting that will allow all Pima County Republican PCs to vote on a bylaw change that will create a mechanism to remove me. This will require a simple majority of all PCs - both appointed and elected. Proxies allowed.
They approved an agenda item for the upcoming special meeting that will allow all elected Republican PCs in Pima County to vote to remove me. This will require a 2/3 majority of only elected PCs. Proxies allowed.
They then created committees to prepare for the upcoming special meeting. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.
At the end of the meeting, I had two inputs:
1. If the bylaws change is passed, I'd like each member on the executive committee to answer the PCs for their respective job performances also. That motion, as you might expect, suffered a resounding defeat.
2. I then gave them notice that because my motion failed, I will exercise my authority per the bylaws, to call a special meeting of the PCs. Should their proposed change in the bylaws pass, the agenda of this meeting will be simply to have each member's performance ratified by the PCs in an up or down vote — the same thing they are demanding of the chairman.
This last tidbit did not make them happy.
Oh, and they then changed the locks for good measure.
"I don't toe the standard Republican line. I campaigned for a year and a half (for Congress)," Miller said, saying that local Republicans knew his stance on issues before he was picked as county chair.
"I'm trying to drag the party into the 21st Century," he said.
"This is a litmus test for the local Republican Party," he said. "Are they ready to be successful, ready to grow, ready to challenge in a Democratic stronghold?"
Democrats have about a 35,000-voter advantage in Pima County he said.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the roughly 337 GOP precinct committeemen to remove Miller as chair, he said.
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"It's up to them," he said.
"There's no job description" for a party chairman, Miller said, but he rates himself as successful.
"Chairmen have to raise money, get PC's (precinct committeemen), and elect Republicans," he said. "I've raised $100,000 in five months, which isn't bad for a non-presidential year."
One sore spot with some party members is the absence of a Republican on the ballot in the race for Tucson's mayor. Both Ron Asta and Shaun McClusky were kicked off the ballot because they failed to file enough valid signatures.
If a Republican receives enough write-in votes—1060—in the primary, the candidate will be listed on the general election ballot in November.
Currently, only two Republican candidates for City Council are on the ballot. If the GOP doesn't field a third, the party will be unable to run "slate" advertisements.
Check back for updates.