PORTLAND, Maine — A national Republican committee has found that Maine’s GOP convention was not conducted legally and therefore 20 delegates pledged to support Ron Paul won’t be seated at the party’s national convention which begins next week, according to state party Chairman Charlie Webster.

The Committee on Contests, which met Wednesday in Tampa, concluded that many rules were broken during the chaotic May convention in Augusta, Webster said. Two longtime Republicans challenged the results, arguing that lax credentialing and security at the state convention allowed unqualified participants to cast votes.

The content committee called on Republican leaders and Paul supporters to work out a compromise or it would choose Maine’s delegates, Webster said.

The committee suggested that 10 pro-Paul supporters and 10 supporters of Mitt Romney represent Maine at the convention, according to Webster. This is similar to agreements reached with other state delegations that backed Paul, a Texas congressman and libertarian-leaning conservative.

The 20 delegates who support Paul could challenge the committee decision on the convention floor, although they aren’t likely to get access to the floor without reaching an agreement with the contest committee.

Brent Tweed, who was chairman of the state convention and is a delegate who supports Paul, said Wednesday evening that no ruling had been reached by the contest committee but that he expected one soon.

Stavros Mendros, a Paul delegate and former legislator from Lewiston who arrived in Tampa on Wednesday, also said he had not heard of a ruling from the committee. He said the Paul delegates are not interested in compromise.

“We were all duly elected,” he said. “Lots of people support us. The governor supports us.”

“Ron Paul won Maine,” Mendros said, adding that refusing to seat his delegates would further embarrass the Maine GOP.

Earlier Wednesday, Matthew McDonald of Belfast, a Paul-backing Maine delegate, said it would give the national party a black eye to reject nearly an entire state’s delegation, and noted that Gov. Paul LePage has promised not to attend the convention if the Maine group isn’t seated.

“We’ve as a whole delegation said, ‘No compromise: Seat all of us or seat none of us,’” McDonald told the BDN on Wednesday. “I think you’ll see when it goes in front of the credentials committee tomorrow, they’ll look at the facts. And the facts are that a Republican governor would boycott a Republican convention.”

He added that many GOP state lawmakers are among those on a petition calling for the Paul delegates to be seated at the convention.

“I believe the people on the credentials committee to be sane, logical people, and the facts will fall where they are, and there will be no reason for any of us to have to give up our seats,” McDonald said. “I think they’ll make the judgment to seat the Maine delegates who were fairly elected.”

Webster took blame for problems with the state convention, noting that turnout was much higher than expected and convention planners were not prepared for it.

Maine Republicans and Romney supporters Peter Cianchette and Jan Martens Staples had urged the Republican national party not to seat the Paul supporters at the Florida event, arguing that the May state convention at which they were elected was not properly run.

Repeating a strategy employed by Paul supporters in other states, the candidate’s backers rallied a large turnout at the Maine GOP convention and were able to secure a near sweep of the convention delegates elected to represent the state at the national convention.

Cianchette and Staples later challenged the results with national Republican officials, claiming in part that lax credentialing and security at the May state convention allowed unqualified participants to cast votes in the affair.

Similar challenges have been lodged regarding the Paul contingents from other states, but as of Wednesday afternoon, Maine’s delegation was the only one in the country that had not reached an agreement on how many of the disputed delegates will be recognized at the national convention.

Ashley Ryan, a Paul supporter who was elected Maine’s new Republican national committeewoman during the controversial state party convention, said Wednesday afternoon that her group is rejecting any compromise.

Ryan said the state’s delegation has turned down offers by the Romney campaign and Republican party officials to seat 12 of Maine’s Paul supporters while replacing the remainder of the disputed delegates with Romney backers.

“As democratically elected delegates, we’re not really interested in taking the deals that they offered us,” said Ryan, who arrived in Tampa for the convention Wednesday. “It’s really insulting to us. You don’t offer an innocent man a plea bargain, and that’s essentially what’s happening here. I think we’ve been very clear with the RNC and the Mitt Romney campaign that we’re not interested in any compromise, because we were elected by the Republicans of the state of Maine.”

National GOP officials and the Mitt Romney campaign forged a deal that would allow some of Paul’s delegates from Louisiana and Massachusetts to be seated. NPR reported that pro-Paul delegations from Iowa, Nevada and Minnesota already have been credentialed for the convention and that a deal has been struck for some of Paul’s delegates from Louisiana and Massachusetts to be seated, but not all of them.

The Paul campaign hopes that it can have enough delegates seated to place Paul’s name into nomination during the convention, which would allow him to make a speech.

Earlier this month, Webster offered a compromise to the Paul delegates. His deal would have let them attend the convention but obligate them to vote for Mitt Romney if Paul doesn’t have sufficient support to be nominated for president.

The Paul supporters rejected that plan.

Last week, Maine delegates who back Paul sought an injunction against the Republican National Committee to stop it from investigating whether they were legitimately chosen to represent the state at the GOP convention.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.