WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the Republican National Committee trying to revamp GOP rules for nominating a presidential candidate says without the change, party leaders could exert "almost dictatorial power" at this July's nominating convention.
The criticisms by Solomon Yue, RNC committeeman from Oregon, were the latest broadside in an internal GOP battle over the rules that will help decide the party's standard-bearer for the White House. The comments, included in an email he sent Monday that was obtained by The Associated Press, come two days before party leaders gather in Hollywood, Florida, to discuss whether to propose changing bylaws for the convention.
The fight pits Yue and some allies against GOP Chairman Reince Priebus and other top party officials. It underscores the high stakes as the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, looms as the first in four decades that may begin without a presumptive presidential candidate.
The RNC said Monday that Priebus will oppose any effort to change the convention's rules at this week's Florida RNC meeting. The RNC can recommend convention bylaws, but only the convention's 2,472 delegates can adopt them.
Priebus believes "the rules of the convention should be decided by the delegates elected by Republican grassroots voters," the RNC said in a statement.
With Priebus and other top party officials arrayed against him, Yue could face an uphill battle.
Henry Barbour, RNC committeeman from Mississippi, said he sees little support for "a change three months before what would be the first open convention in 40 years. Nobody wants to look like they're trying to give an advantage to one candidate or another."
Yue wants the convention to use Roberts Rules of Order, which would let delegates block the convention's presiding officer from allowing the nomination of fresh candidates for president. GOP conventions have long used House of Representatives' rules, which give the presiding officer more unfettered power to run each day's session.
"I believe in democracy and majority rule of the delegates and am concerned that almost dictatorial power the House rules give the chairman of the convention will lead to confusion, chaos, manipulation and revolt at the convention," said Yue's email, which he sent his 55 colleagues on the RNC's rules committee.
Yue wrote that Oregon Republicans want him to "stop the D.C. establishment from parachuting in their favorite candidate as a 'fresh face' into the convention." He said the party is in "a period of mistrust."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is expected to be the convention's presiding officer. He has said he wouldn't accept the presidential nomination, but others have held out hope that he or another fresh candidate could emerge as the candidate.
Many in the party want businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the leading contenders, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who trails, to be allowed to battle it out without facing a new rival who's not run for president this year.
In an interview, Yue declined to predict whether he would prevail when the GOP's rules committee considers his proposal this week. He said if his plan is rejected, he will push for its approval by the full RNC and then at the July convention, where he said he believes the delegates will look more favorably at it.
"The anger is from outside the party, the grassroots," Yue said. "They don't want to see the chairman of the convention get absolute power."