Friday, March 7, 2014
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Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster
Rep. Kenneth Fredette of Newport, who was elected Wednesday as the new House minority leader, said last week's elections should be a sign that the Republican Party must be more welcoming. Webster's comments were not helpful, he said.
"Any time you identify specific groups in general terms, that's hurtful," Fredette said. "If there are specific complaints, they should be investigated, but these general statements and claims don't help anyone."
Fredette talked of rebuilding the party during a speech on Wednesday.
He said the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan's presidency won 49 of 50 states in 1984, suggesting that the party's beliefs were widely supported. He said the party must be a "big tent" again.
"Any comments that turn people off, even if they energize the base, can hurt the party as a whole," Fredette said.
Webster said Thursday that he regrets singling out black voters because people have labeled him a racist.
"I have a couple friends that I play basketball with who are black and I'm sure I'm going to get a few elbows the next time we play," he joked.
Webster has been outspoken and controversial throughout his two years as party chairman.
He made headlines in the summer of 2011 when he alleged that scores of college students had voted without establishing residency in the state. Those claims prompted an investigation, but no fraud was uncovered.
Webster was criticized widely within his party for his handling of Maine's presidential caucus in February.
Candidates to succeed Webster are Richard Cebra of Naples, who had to give up his House seat this year because of term limits; Beth O'Connor, a representative from Berwick who lost her re-election bid last week; and David Jones of Falmouth, a supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul and a relative newcomer to the party committee.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: