YORK COUNTY — The number of area Republicans calling for York County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Booth to resign in the wake of an offensive email are increasing – but it is unclear what, if any, repercussions will actually take place.
Last week, Booth sent an email to area Republicans urging someone to step forward and run against state Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, for Senate District 31. In the email, Booth twice referred to Chenette, who is openly gay, as “Little Justine.”
York County Republican Committee Vice Chairman Ed Karytko of Kennebunk said there is a previously scheduled executive committee meeting Wednesday, and the matter might come up for discussion then. He said the protocol for handling a matter like this is unclear.
“As of right now, we don’t know what will happen,” he said.
Chenette is state representative for District 15, which includes part of Saco. Senate District 31 covers Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and part of Buxton.
Republican William Gombar of Old Orchard Beach dropped out of the Senate race on July 11, leaving Chenette unopposed until it was announced Monday that Republican Tim Sevigny of Saco would run against him. Chenette is also employed by the Journal Tribune as a digital advertising executive.
Booth, of Arundel, called Chenette on Friday and apologized for the email, Chenette said. Booth has declined comment to the press, but according to Chenette, he said he was frustrated to have the open slot so soon before the July 25 deadline to fill it.
When news of the email broke on Friday, reaction from area GOP leaders was swift.
Republican District 33 state Sen. David Woodsome of North Waterboro released a statement Friday calling for Booth’s resignation.
“I am disgusted and disappointed to read about the recent homophobic attack against Rep. Justin Chenette by York County Republican Chairman Jim Booth,” said Woodsome. “Words DO matter and Mr. Booth’s email is ignorant and completely unacceptable.”
Republican District 20 state Rep. Karen Gerrish of Lebanon commented on Woodsome’s statement on Facebook Friday afternoon.
“Amen Senator. I’m in total agreement,” she posted. “It’s been one thing after another with this guy but this took the cake. Justin is my seat mate in committee. Although we disagree a great deal on things, he is a friend and dedicated legislator. Booth needs to go and it’s long overdue.”
Alfred Town Republican Committee Chairman George Donovan said Monday that in his opinion, Booth should be asked to resign as chairman of the York County Republican Committee.
Donovan said he’s heard from other area Republicans who, like him, are disappointed in Booth’s behavior.
“There’s no place in the world for this sort of attitude,” he said. “...I’m not backing off. This is way overboard.”
Donovan noted that in the past, Booth endorsed a candidate on behalf of the York County Republican Committee without authorization, and instead should have endorsed the candidate on his own behalf.
Karytko said what Booth did was not right, and that it was unfortunate it happened.
“I think Jimmy did the right thing giving Justin a call and apologizing,” he said. “Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess.”
— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or firstname.lastname@example.org.