Oklahoma GOP Wants Chairman Out for Protecting Official Guilty of Domestic Abuse

The chairman demoted the official to political director, but state Republicans say that’s not enough. Now they want both men gone.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22: Political pins featuring Oklahoma GOPs are seen during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 22, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. About a dozen possible presidential candidates will join the conference and lobby for supports from Republican voters.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
May 22, 2015, 5:30 p.m.

OK­LAHOMA CITY—Be­hind the scenes of a ma­jor GOP con­fer­ence, top Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­ans have been plot­ting to oust their state party’s polit­ic­al dir­ect­or and, if ne­ces­sary, the chair­man of the party for pro­tect­ing him.

Thomas Clint “T.C.” Ry­an, the polit­ic­al dir­ect­or, pleaded guilty in 2012 to do­mest­ic-as­sault charges. Earli­er this month, Ok­lahoma GOP Chair­man Randy Bro­g­don re­fused calls for Ry­an’s resig­na­tion, in­stead shift­ing him from his newly ap­poin­ted po­s­i­tion of ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or to polit­ic­al dir­ect­or to quiet the crit­ics.

But that clearly was not enough. Now, as the South­ern Re­pub­lic­an Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence gets un­der­way and 2016 con­tenders line up to speak, dis­cus­sions aimed at re­mov­ing both Ry­an and Bro­g­don are in­tensi­fy­ing be­hind closed doors, ac­cord­ing to three sources in­volved.

Bro­g­don, these sources say, knows the plot­ting is hap­pen­ing be­hind his back and, ac­cord­ing to those Re­pub­lic­an of­fi­cials, isn’t back­ing down, in­stead opt­ing to keep pro­tect­ing his close friend.

Brodgon only won the chair­man­ship last month. The con­tro­versy began when he ap­poin­ted Ry­an, 31, as the state party’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or. Ry­an not only ad­mit­ted to the do­mest­ic as­sault but to “bat­tery in the pres­ence of a minor and in­ter­fer­ence with an emer­gency tele­phone call, both mis­de­mean­ors,” ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press.

A num­ber of party of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing fe­male state law­makers, voiced their dis­ap­prov­al about Ry­an’s ap­point­ment, and they wer­en’t sat­is­fied with Bro­g­don’s solu­tion, say­ing in­stead that Ry­an should not be work­ing for the state party in any ca­pa­city.

“It is totally un­ac­cept­able for someone with that re­cent crim­in­al back­ground of that nature to be em­ployed in any ca­pa­city by the Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an Party,” state Sen. Dav­id Holt said this week, ac­cord­ing to the AP. “I have zero tol­er­ance for do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence, and I be­lieve that my polit­ic­al party should feel the same way.”

Ok­lahoma GOP lead­ers had hoped to re­solve the is­sue be­fore this week’s three-day GOP sum­mit meant to spot­light the state’s suc­cesses and the party’s pres­id­en­tial hope­fuls. But with Bro­g­don dig­ging in his heels and re­fus­ing to get rid of Ry­an, the fo­cus has shif­ted to oust­ing the chair­man him­self. By Fri­day even­ing, the plan­ning had es­cal­ated to the point where of­fi­cials were de­bat­ing “a plan of suc­ces­sion” to fol­low once Bro­g­don is re­moved, ac­cord­ing to a source fa­mil­i­ar with the dis­cus­sions.

Bro­g­don had, ac­cord­ing to sources, reached an agree­ment with GOP lead­ers for Ry­an to take a leave of ab­sence while his case was fur­ther in­vest­ig­ated. But Brodgon reneged on that ar­range­ment, party of­fi­cials say, telling a group of them this week: “I can’t do this job without T.C.”

With Bro­g­don re­fus­ing to get rid of Ry­an, GOP of­fi­cials here have be­gun ex­plor­ing op­tions for re­mov­ing the chair­man him­self. There will first be meas­ures taken to force out Ry­an, be­gin­ning with the state GOP’s budget com­mit­tee elim­in­at­ing his po­s­i­tion as polit­ic­al dir­ect­or. If Bro­g­don over­rules that man­euver, as ex­pec­ted, the Re­pub­lic­an state com­mit­tee—a body of more than 200 of­fi­cials from across Ok­lahoma—would have the power to re­move Bro­g­don from the chair­man­ship.

Bro­g­don and Ry­an could not be reached on Fri­day for com­ment.

Party of­fi­cials hope to have this re­solved in the next sev­er­al weeks—wheth­er by for­cing only Ry­an out or by clean­ing house al­to­geth­er.

Yet in some ways, the dam­age will have already been done. This week’s con­fer­ence fea­tured a pan­el ob­ject­ing to the nar­rat­ive of a Re­pub­lic­an “war on wo­men,” which was over­shad­owed, some of­fi­cials said, by the Ry­an con­tro­versy.

Ben Car­son, the re­cently an­nounced pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, is head­lining a Fri­day night fun­drais­ing din­ner for the Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an Party. Also speak­ing at the event is Ra­fael Cruz, the fath­er of Sen. Ted Cruz, who was ini­tially slated to give the key­note speech but had to can­cel be­cause of votes in Con­gress.

There are ef­forts un­der­way to neut­ral­ize the neg­at­ive at­ten­tion garnered this week by the in­tra­party tur­moil. An of­fi­cial in­volved in the event-plan­ning said that Car­son will be in­tro­duced at Fri­day’s din­ner by Dav­id Lewis, a prom­in­ent loc­al busi­ness lead­er, who will make a point of con­demning do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence in his open­ing re­marks.

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