Ron Paul Supporters Say St. Charles County Caucus Organizers Flouted Rules
Republican Committee organizers say they tried to be fair to all caucus participants by trying to see that delegates were apportioned to candidates according to participant numbers.
During Ron Paul’s March 10 visit to Lindenwood University, Brent Stafford got up and urged Paul supporters to attend the caucus and “make national news.”
And they did.
“Just not in the way we wanted to,” Stafford said Sunday.
The St. Charles County Republican Caucus at Francis Howell North was shut down Saturday with no business conducted. Stafford and another caucus attender were arrested by St. Peters Police for trespassing after the caucus.
Now, the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” has two sides of the county's GOP pointing fingers at the other.
Stafford said that before the meeting, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney supporters had decided to support him (Stafford) for chairman.
“We talked to them and I told them I was intent on running things by the rules, and I hired a parliamentarian (president of the Missouri Association of Parliamentarians) to make sure we followed Roberts Rules of Order,” Stafford said.
Jon Bennett, a St. Charles Central Republican Committee member, said Caucus organizers had gotten wind of the Paul and Romney coalition to gain the chairman position.
“They (Paul supporters) love to say their intent is pure, but their intent was to get as many delegates as they could for their candidate. That’s part of the game,” Bennett said.
Bennett said the fear was that the Paul and Romney supporters would dominate the caucus and split the delegates, disenfranchising Santorum and Gingrich supporters regardless of their numbers at the meeting.
“That’s their battle cry, ‘Go by the rules. Be fair.’ Well, is it fair if the caucus gets a majority vote to crucify the rest of the room?” said Bennett, a Gingrich supporter.
He also said organizers have unfairly been labeled as all being Santorum supporters. Bennett said that Dokes, as chairman, wanted to be fair to all caucus participants.
“The intent was to apportion delegates to candidates according to the percentage of supporters at the caucus,” Bennett said.
So, when caucus participants registered they were polled regarding what candidate they supported, he said.
Dokes said, “We were definitely going to propose a rule for that outcome. I don’t know what the result of the vote would be.”
And then the caucus started.
Stafford said the St. Charles County Caucus said they anticipated some kind of trouble for Ron Paul supporters. It’s happened around the country at other GOP caucuses, he said.
“We discussed various scenarios, and one of them was pretty much what happened, the way they railroaded the nomination the chair, apparently, it’s been reported that was their plan before the caucus was to not accept any nominations but their person to be nominated,” Stafford said.
He had gone out on the floor for a point of order regarding video when Dokes opened nominations.
“So I nominated myself continually. This woman stood in front of me and he called her by name,” Stafford said.
She nominated Matt Ehlen, and got a second. But Dokes ignored Stafford, he said.
“The problem is the rules are clear on nominations from the floor. You do not have to be recognized by the chair to make your nomination and you do not have to have a second,” Stafford said. “He clearly heard me nominating myself and that nomination should have been accepted.”
People around the room started trying to nominate Stafford, and that soon developed into some participates chanting his name.”
Dokes said that he took the first nomination for Ehlen and got an immediate second. He then heard an immediate motion to close nominations.
“Because there was a motion to close the nominations, I had a duty to vacate that motion before moving onto anything else,” Dokes said. “I figured it would be voted down.”
However, those wishing to nominate Stafford became angry and starting chanting, “Brent Stafford.”
“When we were taking the voice vote on closing nominations, people were out there yelling,” Dokes said. “They didn’t participate in the vote because they were screaming. Is it my fault they didn’t vote because they were out of order?”
He said there were more ‘ayes’ than ‘nays,’ so he closed nominations and took a vote on making Ehlen the caucus chairman with the same outcome.
Dokes said. “I could have ignored procedure and voted again, but that wouldn’t be following procedure.”
Stafford said most people in the room weren’t aware of what Dokes was doing at that point. However, he said there was immediate call to count the vote, but they were ignored.
“That cannot be ignored. It must be acted on,” Stafford said.
Did the process Dokes followed circumvent a fair nomination process?
Bennett said, “That’s probably a fair assessment.”
“This is an ugly process and it’s the nature of the beast,” said Bennett a former state representative. “Procedural maneuvers are done all the time. We claimed (Democrat and former Missouri Speaker of the House) Bob Griffin was deaf one ear because he never heard a motion from our side of the room.”
Bennett said he doesn't like caucuses for those reasons.
An Angry Crowd
But the results angered the crowd.
“Once he refused to count the votes for chairman, no one in the room was willing to recognize him (Ehlen) as the duly elected chair,” Stafford said.
Some people spilled onto the floor.
Ehlen warned the crowd: “The police are threatening to shut us down."
Dokes said there had been talks with police about controlling the meeting and possibly shutting it down if it got out of hand. As the crowd refused to listen to Ehlen, a police officer walked over to Dokes and suggested closing the meeting.
"He also left it to my judgment," Dokes said. "(Ehlen) was looking for a motion. I moved to adjourn and it was seconded by (Central Committee member) Bryan Spencer. At that point, there was no order at all."
Ehlen called for a vote and closed the meeting.
Stafford said that was another in a series of procedural errors.
“The meeting was adjourned improperly,” Stafford said. “He needed a two-thirds vote to adjourn the meeting.”
For more on Saturday’s Caucus, check back with Patch later today.