Mo. GOP reschedules St. Charles County caucus

Friday, March 23, 2012

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- One of Missouri's largest Republican areas will try again to participate in the GOP presidential nomination process after a fracas forced the cancellation of the first caucus.

The Missouri Republican Party announced Friday that the St. Charles County caucus has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. April 10 at the convention center in St. Charles. State Republican Party Chairman David Cole will serve as temporary chairman until participants choose a caucus chairman.

The March 17 caucus at a high school gym in St. Peters turned chaotic and adjourned without selecting delegates for Missouri's congressional district conventions in April and the state GOP convention in June. Some of the crowd was upset by rules imposed by county Republican leaders, including a ban on audio and video equipment.

Supporters of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney also were upset about county GOP chairman Eugene Dokes' decision to recognize only one nomination for caucus chairman. Two Paul supporters were arrested for trespassing when they were allegedly told to leave but refused to do so. One of them tried to reconvene the caucus outside.

"Since Saturday, we have reviewed our options to determine the best way to move forward while ensuring that the voice of St Charles has been heard," Cole said. "We have concluded that the only proper remedy for this situation is to schedule a new St Charles County caucus."

St. Charles, Missouri's third largest county, is heavily Republican. Rick Santorum celebrated there in February after winning Missouri's non-binding primary, which was little more than a straw poll.

Cole said it is important that the county play a role in the selection process. He also said audio and video recording devices will be allowed at the April 10 caucus.

"I want to make it clear to the people of St. Charles County that we will conduct this caucus in a fair, honest and transparent manner," he said.

Dokes said the plan for the rescheduled caucus, including allowing recording equipment, is fine with him.

"All I care about at this point is the county will get the representation it needs in the presidential selection process," Dokes said.

Despite the problems in St. Charles County, Cole said most of the state's caucuses were well-run. St. Louis city and Jackson County will hold their caucuses Saturday. The rescheduled St. Charles County caucus will be the last of the state's local caucuses.

The congressional district caucuses and statewide convention will select most of the 52 Missouri delegates to the Republican National Convention, and caucus-goers are free to make their own selections.

Cole said he favors a return to a binding primary for 2016 and he anticipates that leaders of both parties will consider a primary.

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