Kimball clarifies comments

Last modified: 2/3/2011 12:00:00 AM
Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball is distancing himself from comments made by his newly hired executive director, who said a potential presidential candidate was not "conservative enough."

Will Wrobleski, a former staffer for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told Roll Call that he would not vote for potential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Wrobleski made the remarks a week before he took a job with the state Republican Party. But concern from some Pawlenty supporters put the party on the defensive.

"I want to be very clear that these comments do not reflect my opinions and at the time he made these remarks, Will was not an employee of the Republican Party, did not speak for me, and did not speak for the New Hampshire Republican Party," Kimball said in a statement.

Wrobleski has worked on several New Hampshire campaigns, and during the 2008 presidential primary he was Romney's state coalitions director. At a Jan. 24 reception with Pawlenty in Concord, Wrobleski told a Roll Call reporter that he was "very strongly considering" working for Romney again.

Of Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, Wrobleski said: "He's a nice guy. But there's a number of guys I'd vote for. He's not one of them. I don't think he's conservative enough."

According to Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of Kimball's transition team, Wrobleski was not in discussions with the state party when he spoke to the reporter. The Pawlenty event was on a Monday, and Horn said she called Wrobleski for the first time that Wednesday. Kimball interviewed Wrobleski, talked to his transition team at a Friday night meeting and offered Wrobleski the job Saturday.

"There was no reason to believe on Monday that Will had any thought of working with the New Hampshire GOP," Horn said.

But after Wrobleski's appointment was announced this Monday, Roll Call ran a story noting that a Romney ally had been hired for the state Republican Party's top spot, and included Wrobleski's comments about Pawlenty.

That led to questions from at least one well-known blogger. Christopher Potter Stewart writes the Monday Morning Clacker blog and co-founded the political consulting company B-Fresh Consulting in Manchester with his wife, Sarah Crawford Stewart. Crawford Stewart, who worked for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, is a senior adviser to Pawlenty's political action committee.

On his blog, Potter Stewart wrote that the party should find a new executive director. "Will should still work for Mitt Romney," he wrote. "Will should not work for the New Hampshire Republican Party which is charged with helping all presidential candidates in New Hampshire."

Potter Stewart wrote on Twitter, "I can't imagine that the NHGOP wants all future conversations to begin with, 'No, we are not an extension of Romney's campaign.' "

Potter Stewart could not be reached yesterday.

During his own campaign for party chairman, Kimball was criticized for statements he had made implying that he would instruct presidential candidates on New Hampshire voters' desire for conservative choices - though he later said he would not choose candidates. The reaction to Wrobleski led Kimball to issue a statement reiterating the party's commitment to neutrality.

"I am committed to maintaining the great tradition of our First in the Nation Primary, where all candidates are welcome," Kimball wrote. "I will ensure all candidates receive impartial treatment from the NH GOP staff, and look forward to working closely with all Republican candidates as they campaign in New Hampshire in 2011."

Kimball thanked Pawlenty for supporting New Hampshire candidates in 2010 and added, "I have gotten to know Governor Pawlenty over the past year and know he has an excellent record of strong, conservative leadership in Minnesota."

Alex Conant, a spokesman for Pawlenty's political action committee, said it is not concerned about Wrobleski's comments.

"We appreciate (Kimball's) statement and are confident Chairman Kimball will do a terrific job leading the State Party in a fair and neutral way," Conant said in an e-mail. "The Governor looks forward to helping the NH GOP achieve their goals on future visits to the state. The views of the independent blogger are his alone."

Wrobleski did not return a phone call. But Horn said Wrobleski "has expressed genuine regret" over making the remarks. "He recognized they were inappropriate, apologized fully, and is fully committed to a welcoming and neutral environment to all candidates who come into the state," Horn said.

Horn said Kimball has been clear that there is "no leeway" in the neutrality of the party. "Jack was very clear in his statement saying that New Hampshire State Committee paid staff are neutral in elections, especially in New Hampshire's first in the nation primary," Horn said.

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