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Greenville GOP leadership abruptly resigns in overthrow launched by 'true MAGA supporters'

Greenville GOP (copy)

The entrance to a Greenville GOP forum in 2018. Leaders of the county party resigned July 8 over tension with conservative activists in the area File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

GREENVILLE — Top officials at the Greenville Republican Party have abruptly resigned after months of tension with outspoken activists, blaming their critics for a relentless campaign of "intimidation, threats, bullying, disenfranchisement and character assassination" that has thrown the organization into turmoil.

In a letter to South Carolina GOP headquarters July 8 that was obtained by The Post and Courier, Greenville GOP Chair Jennifer Black, 1st Vice Chair Stacy Shea and state Executive Committeeman Randy Page said the ongoing attempt to thwart their leadership has made their positions untenable.

"While we have patiently sought resolution, addressed the constant baseless accusations, and always demonstrated transparency and a willingness to move forward, it has been met with barricades at every turn," the group wrote.

"As such, our energy is best used elsewhere to positively engage legislative issues that affect us, our families, and the citizens of our great state," they concluded.

The feud tearing apart one of the state's biggest county parties represents a continuation of the power struggle that consumed Republicans in the lead-up to their state convention in May when state GOP Chairman Drew McKissick secured reelection but only after facing weeks of attacks from pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood.

Earlier this year, a group of mostly Upstate far-right activists who had been thorns in the side of party leaders for years formed a new organization under the banner of "My SCGOP" and recruited Wood to enter the race.

While much of the attention focused on the state party election, the group was also working to purge the local party of members they deemed unfaithful to their cause. They lost leadership races against them at the county convention but continued haranguing them in the months since in attempt to force them out.

In an interview with The Post and Courier, McKissick described the situation as "absolute insanity" and said the My SCGOP activists have engaged in "totally shameful, reprehensible behavior."

"They have essentially preyed on Trump supporters, telling them the county and state party organizations didn't support President Trump, which is a total lie, and then they've gone forward spreading rumors and innuendos about people — everything from sex trafficking to embezzlement to rigging elections, all this garbage," McKissick said.

"These are people who want to turn the local party organization into their own personal hobbyhorse, and that is not our mission," McKissick added. "The mission of the Republican Party is to support our platform and elect people who will support that platform and carry it into public policy. Period. Anything else is a complete distraction."

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Pressley Stutts, the longtime Greenville Tea Party leader who helped create My SCGOP, said he is convinced the county GOP election was rife with cheating. He said he was initially willing to work with the new leaders but found them to be "very belligerent and very condescending towards us."

Black, the outgoing party chair, said she did try hard to find some middle ground between the two sides and open up as much transparency about the election as possible.

"It's unfortunate because we do agree on so much and this is not our problem," Black said. "Our problem is the Democrats. So we have to figure out how to get back together and really stop the infighting."

At the party's latest meeting, Stutts called on the county party's leadership to resign — a demand that was granted July 8.

"We are following the advice of President Trump, who encouraged all of the MAGA supporters to go out, get involved and take over the parties with their true MAGA supporters," Stutts said. "That's what we did."

Where the Greenville GOP goes from here is now unclear. In the near-term, the remaining members will need to elect new leadership, likely to happen in the next few weeks. But those elections are unlikely to resolve many of the core disputes rupturing the party.

Long known as the state's foremost hotbed of conservatism, Greenville's local GOP could now enter a period of intense isolation from the rest of the Republican apparatus.

"It will fall into a state of disrepair, become a complete dumpster fire and essentially be a leper colony for the next year and a half," McKissick said.

In its place, McKissick suggested that "sane Republicans" might end up creating separate GOP clubs in the Greenville area for people who want to stay focused on the core party functions of supporting Republican candidates.

"We will help them do that in every way," McKissick said.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

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