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Police called in to stop spatting GOP leaders
Jul 14, 2005 12:00 am
July 13, 2005
The underlying power struggle within the Wilson County Republican Party finally erupted Tuesday night when the top two county officials verbally fought over running the meeting, ultimately leading to local police being called in to resolve the situation.
At the start of the meeting, Wilson County Republican Party Chair Kevin Mack and Vice Chair Sherrie Orange bickered about who would run the meeting, which led to the police arriving on the scene. Upon seeing the two disagreeing parties, Lebanon Police Department officers escorted the two battling officers out of the Jimmy Floyd Family Center to resolve the situation, leaving more than 50 Republicans in a confused or disappointed state.
"I'm so sorry," Wilson County Republican Party Secretary Jo Grafton told the audience sitting in silence after the two party leaders left the room. "I'm so embarrassed."
Grafton and a few others apparently then marched on with the meeting, allowing State Rep. Susan Lynn and State Sen. Mae Beavers to update the local GOP party about legislative issues. At the same time, Lebanon police were questioning Mack and Orange outside. Neither were arrested and no charges were filed.
Orange explained she and other GOP members established an agenda and attained the room in the Lebanon facility only to have Mack appear and usurp the meeting.
"He demanded that I turn over the itinerary to him," Orange said outside the meeting room. "I said no."
The pair then apparently verbally fought over who would run the meeting, causing someone to contact police.
Mack, however, said he started to chair the meeting and was "continually interupted by Vice Chancellor Orange."
"I believe she and some of her acquaintances called the LPD, and as I understand it indicated I was being unruly," Mack said, noting he left the room to explain the situation to the police. "I told them I was the chair of the organization, and I was going to chair the meeting. Then after hearing the vice chair was trying to usurp me, they let me go in and head the meeting."
After seeing Mack head into the meeting, Orange appparently decided to cancel the meeting. She notified the members of the decision a few minutes later, following Beavers' and Lynn's comments and Mt. Juliet City Manager Rob Shearer's statements about progress in West Wilson County.
"They've asked us to dissolve this meeting since the meeting is not going the way we had planned," Orange told the 50-plus Republicans at the meeting.
Mack responded by saying he was about to turn the meeting over to her. But members immediately started to file out the doors of the Floyd Center.
Beavers was astounded at the display among the local Republican leaders.
"Sometimes you've got to restrain yourself," she said to a small crowd gathering outside the room. " … If we don't get things together, we might as well dissolve the party."
A few minutes later, Beavers said disbanding the party is extreme.
"I want people to get aligned, support the party and give up their egos," she told a reporter. "It's not about one person. It's about the party and supporting the Republican principles and candidates."
Dolores Mackey also wants the battling to stop, but only sees one solution – new Wilson County Republican Party officers.
"I think the only thing that will solve it is for the entire executive committee be dissolved and a new executive committee be elected," she said following the meeting. "Because it will never resolve itself with the current people in office."
Night News Editor J.K. Devine can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 46 and email@example.com.