Mo. GOP announces new St. Charles County caucus following controversy
Updated at 3:20 with information from David Cole conference call, other interviews.
After the first attempt at a GOP caucus in St. Peters was shut down following a dispute, the Missouri Republican Party has announced a new caucus for St. Charles County.
“Since Saturday (March 17, the day of the original caucus), we have reviewed our options to determine the best way to move forward while ensuring that the voice of St. Charles has been heard," David Cole, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party said in a statement. "We have concluded that the only proper remedy for this situation is to schedule a new St Charles County Caucus. I want to make it clear to the people of St Charles County that we will conduct this caucus in a fair, honest, and transparent manner."
In a conference call with reporters today, Cole said he was not pointing fingers or placing blame for the failure of the March 17 meeting, which hit a procedural brick wall before any delegates were awarded. The chaos began when some in the crowd became upset over the way St. Charles County GOP officials were handling the caucus. They're being accused of trying to rig the caucus for Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who won the state's non-binding primary in February.
To avoid further problems, Cole will preside over the selection of a caucus chairman, and the state party counsel will serve as the parliamentarian. Audio and video recording will be permitted at the new caucus, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 10 at the St. Charles County Convention Center. A Ron Paul supporter who was taping the earlier proceedings was arrested.
Eugene Doaks, the St. Charles County Republican chairman who is at the center of the rigging scandal, supported the new caucus.
"The county was not reprimanded at all," Doaks said. "The rules are that if we don't have a caucus on the date that we were supposed to have it, the only organization that can come in and do this is the state party. So there was no other way that St. Charles County could have had its representation. We did not have a successful caucus so no matter what happened in the end, no voices were heard, not one, because we had absolutely no delegates, no slate, nothing at all."
Brent Stafford, a Ron Paul supporter who was also arrested on March 17, says he has faith that the state party officials will make the process much more fair.
"I think with all the scrutiny and the state committee's involvement in this, it should go the way the caucus should go," Stafford said.
A spokeswoman for the Rick Santorum campaign had no comment on the caucus change. Spokespersons for the campaigns of Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney did not return phone calls for comment.