Wednesday August 15, 2012 | 09:07 PM

The intra-party battle over the seating of 21 of 24 Maine Republican delegates at the national convention has taken another twist. 

The delegation on Wednesday claimed foul play by the Republican National Committee panel reviewing a challenge that could prevent the delegates from attending the national convention in Tampa, Fla. next week. The RNC's contest committee last week pushed the challenge to a full hearing.

The delegation, which is comprised mostly of Ron Paul supporters and tea party activists, said the committee's failure to rule last week was unjustified. In a press release sent late Wednesday, the delegation claimed that the move gave the two Maine Republicans challenging the delegates election more time to strengthen their case. 

The release claimed the RNC committee "changed their own rules, which previously required a ruling, in order to grant the contestants a second chance to retry their challenge."

The challenge was issued by two Maine Republicans who claimed that 21 of the delegates were improperly elected. 

"The RNC Committee on Contests could not find any evidence of fraud,” said Mark Willis, the incoming National Committeeman for Maine. “According to their own rules, the RNC was obligated to recommend that the Maine delegates be certified. Instead, the Committee on Contests had to create new rules to give the challengers a second chance. Such a decision is unprecedented, violates party rules and violates the due process rights of the duly elected Maine delegation. In a court of law, this challenge would have already been thrown out and dismissed."

John Logan Jones, a Falmouth delegate who is running for state representative,  said the RNC decision "really makes me doubt the integrity of the process at the RNC.”

He added, “The burden of proof is on the contestants and they failed to meet that burden. The RNC should have left it at that and certified Maine’s delegation. Instead they are reaching over backwards, changing their own rules to accommodate the Mitt Romney Campaign.”

The dispute plays into a national battle between Ron Paul supporters and establishment Republicans. The Paul supporters are hoping to deliver the majority of delegates in at least five states so that Paul can have a 15-minute speaking role at the convention in Tampa. 

Romney supporters, however, are wary of Paul supporters disrupting what is typically a unity event to showcase the presumptive presidential nominee. 

Ron Paul picked up 21 delegates after the Texan congressman’s supporters took over the state GOP convention, but two Mitt Romney supporters filed a challenge based on alleged voting irregularities and procedural violations.

Paul finished a close second behind Romney in Maine’s February GOP caucuses. Those results were nonbinding.

 

 

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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