Donald Trump supporters want the head of New Hampshire's Republican Party fired for attacking the Republican presidential candidate.
Trump's state co-chairman Steve Stepanek is helping to petition signatures from the state party's executive committee to force a meeting and a vote to remove New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn form office. Stepanek argues that Horn's criticism of Trump breaks with state party by-laws requiring her to remain "strictly neutral" in the primary process.
Stepanek said he's confident that he'll get the 50 members of the estimated 800 members of the state's Republican Committee required to force a vote to remove Horn sometime before the end of the year.
"It's not just her anti-Trump rhetoric. It's that she doesn't remain neutral," said Stepanek, who is also a state representative, in a phone interview. "Instead of creating a neutral, level playing field in primaries, she's out there critiquing different candidates and giving her personal opinion, which she shouldn't be doing."
Horn, who declined comment through a spokesman, slammed Trump last month in an interview with the Boston Globe, saying his campaign depends on "bombast and divisive rhetoric" and predicting he wouldn't win the state's Feb. 9 primary.
She went on to say people were "underestimating" Trump's rival candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, while also saying former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was working "very hard." Both Christie and Bush are seen as more establishment-friendly candidates.
This past week, Horn said a public statement that it was "un-American" for Trump to propose temporarily banning foreign Muslims from entering the country until U.S. officials reformed terror tracking policies. "While my position is certainly political, I am an American first," Horn said in a public statement. "There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion. It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American."
Trump backers had organized their petition prior to Horn's latest comments, but now they're even more enraged, said N.H. state Representative Al Baldasaro, who co-chairs Trump’s veterans coalition in the state, in a phone interview.
"It's bullsh--t," he said. "She's supposed to be neutral and she's going against the by-laws of our state party."
Trump has frequently clashed with the Republican Party's national political establishment, which has grown increasingly alarmed at what the celebrity billionaire's candidacy could mean for its chances of retaking the White House.
The in-fighting in New Hampshire illustrates the depth of the nation's anti-establishment mood, and how Trump's battle against the establishment is being waged on a local level. As Baldasaro put it: "This is all ricocheting from the top in D.C. all the way to the state level. We're not stupid."
The Manchester Union Leader, the state's influential conservative paper which recently backed Christie, defended Horn in an editorial published on Wednesday, arguing that "Horn is free to speak her mind and stand up for religious freedom."
"She and the party aren’t taking sides in the primary, and Trump will get a fair shot here in New Hampshire," the editorial stated.
Stepanek noted that he's got support from the state's former House Speaker William O'Brien, who is chairs the state campaign for Trump rival Ted Cruz, the Texas senator. O'Brien couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, a separate online petition calling for Horn's resignation has already received more than 1,100 signatures. "Jennifer Horn's comments regarding the 2016 Presidential Candidacy of Donald Trump jeopardize the primary process, and the first in the nation primary. As chairman of the Republican Party, she should be criticizing Democrats, not fellow Republicans," the petition states.
Trump's proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. has ignited a firestorm of criticism among both Republicans and Democrats alike, with some critics comparing him to Hitler. Trump's GOP presidential rivals as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, all denouncing it.
A Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies poll released Wednesday, however, found that two-thirds of likely Republican primary voters backed his plan.