The chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party has resigned.
Just minutes before the state's GOP leaders were expected to remove him, Jack Kimball told a packed room of opponents and sign-waving supporters that he was stepping down after just seven months on the job.
"I am not going to become an obstacle for this party," he said, his voice shaking. "I am tendering my resignation."
A former tea party leader, Kimball had come under intense scrutiny for lackluster fundraising and special election losses. He lost the confidence of the state's congressional delegation and most elected leaders. Some Republicans feared the infighting would threaten the state's coveted position on the primary calendar in the future. And the Republican National Committee has been reluctant to send money to New Hampshire until the matter is settled.
But tea party activists fought for him until the final moments. They crowded into Thursday night's meeting at the Holiday Inn and waved signs of support.
"You're watching the death of the New Hampshire Republican Party tonight," said local tea party member E.J. Bleiler of Dover.
In a sign the RNC was closely monitoring Thursday's meeting, Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement congratulating Kimball's successor, former state vice chairman, Wayne MacDonald.
"We have a strong partner in Wayne, and with his leadership we will make certain Barack Obama is a one-term president."
Kimball's resignation likely ends what had become a steady distraction just as presidential candidates began making more regular stops in the state that will host the nation's first presidential primary in roughly five months.
In stepping down, Kimball called for the state GOP to come together.
"This party needs to be unified. It can't stand to have what is going on now," he said.
National Committeeman Steve Duprey, who was among those prepared to vote Kimball out Thursday night, praised him for putting the party first. And he downplayed the suggestion that Kimball's tea party association was a problem.
"The fact that he was relatively new to politics has proven to make this too difficult a job for him," Duprey said. "He does not understand well the nuts and bolts and mechanics of how you run a state party. It's not about whether he was in the establishment wing, or the tea party wing, or the Dunkin Donuts wing. It's about mechanics. That's where he failed."
During his 35 years in the GOP, MacDonald has held a number of leadership positions. He's been the state party's vice chairman since 2003.
In a statement Thursday night, MacDonald thanked his supporters and Kimball.
"Jack has been an impassioned leader of this party and true to his ideals," MacDonald said. "He is part of the fresh blood a party needs to sustain itself."