Renner resigns as county GOP chair

Published 11:27 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

Demopolis resident Andy Renner has resigned as chair of the Marengo County Republican Party.

The action is the result of a number of TV ads run by Renner’s political action committee (PAC), True Republican PAC, showing Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne to be a “Republican in name only,” (RINO) having been an active member of the Democratic Party years before in working with Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

“Andy was on record as being chair of the Republican Party in Marengo County,” said Paul Reynolds, a national Republican Party committee member from Alabama. “We kept getting reports back that the Marengo County party was not sending in a copy of its bylaws for a review by a committee in Huntsville, led by a man named Elbert Peters. His job was to get all of the counties in the state in compliance with the state bylaws so we could certify that we are compliant.

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“This was already happening before the big bang happened with True Republican PAC. When that happened, and Andy listed himself as (the chair of) True Republican PAC and as the chair of the Marengo County Republican committee — you just can’t do two things like that simultaneously. You can’t turn your gun of some big PAC on a candidate, regardless of who he is, if he’s running under the name ‘Republican.’ It was creating confusion as to who True Republican PAC was. We had people around the state wondering why the Republican Party was turning their guns on one of their own candidates for governor.”

Reynolds said the chair of the Alabama Republican Party, Mike Hubbard, sent Renner a letter in May asking for his resignation on the spot.

“Andy did not respond,” Reynolds said. “The bylaws of the party state that if any county ‘goes rogue’ and starts doing things that are detrimental to the overall good of the party statewide, we have the ability to come in and dissolve the local party and start over.

“We were starting that procedure, and we thought that it was getting pretty close to the primary election day, so the best thing to do was to let it ride until after the primary.”

The chairman of District 7, Pierce Boyd, and three local republicans then set an appointment with Renner.

“It was our understanding and our thinking that if Andy was, as all of the evidence showed, aligned with (Alabama Democratic Party leaders) Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed in this effort, that he would have legal counsel representation, and we wouldn’t talk at all about True Republican PAC,” Reynolds said. “All we would talk about would be the things to do with the state Republican Party.”

Reynolds said the group asked Renner where his records were, the minutes of the meetings the Marengo County Republican Party held and other similar items, coming away with the fact that the Republican Party in Marengo County did not exist as an entity.

“We also wanted to find out where Andy was in responding to the chairman’s letter that he had sent,” Reynolds said. “We said, ‘You’ve been sitting on it for a while, and you haven’t responded. What do you intend to do? Our job is not to coax you into doing one or the other. What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Let’s talk about that.’ That’s where we started talking about True Republican PAC. Andy brought it up; we did not.”

Reynolds said Renner told them about why he began True Republican PAC and how he got in contact with Hubbert and Reed.

“From the very beginning, I just wanted to expose people who weren’t really Republicans,” Renner said. “But, when I saw how expensive it was — I thought half a million dollars was all the money in the world, but that wouldn’t do anything. I was told that I used a Democratic media source, but I just went with the best price. I had no idea they worked with Hillary Clinton and all this, and I didn’t give a damn, either. It was getting the job done. I just got in way over my head.”

Reynolds said that Renner volunteered his resignation during the meeting.

“I was not forced to resign,” Renner said. “I chose to resign because it became clear to me that the Republican Party hierarchy would not tolerate any kind of diversity of opinion or the lack of loyalty to their hand-picked candidates.”

Renner said he never anticipated the reaction that would await him once the commercials hit the airwaves.

“It’s just amazing to me that I got them all riled up. I did tell somebody from Linden that they were scared to death. ‘Andy, you’re going to make all these people mad at us.’ I said, ‘Nobody’s going to be mad at anyone from Marengo County. I guarantee you, mark my words, you’re going to have at least two people come over here and speak to you that’s running for governor.’ And that’s exactly what happened. Do you think Bradley Byrne would have traveled to Demopolis, Alabama, if I had not done this? I doubt it.

And the PAC, which was started as a “time killer” after Renner sold Marengo Butane in Linden, quickly gained the attention of the state’s GOP. Renner invested $2,000 of his own money into the PAC and got help from a lobbyist in Montgomery to help organize it.

According to Reynolds, “the lobbyist told him that, ‘What you’re proposing to do to route out these RINOs, Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed may also be interested in what you’re intending to do. If you want me to, I can set you up to go see them for some money,’ and Andy said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go see them.’”

“The PAC was formed by me and other Republicans,” Renner said. “It operates under my supervision. I’m nobody’s little lapdog. I had raised over a half a million dollars in commitments and money from Republicans that were opposed to Bradley Byrne long before the AEA (Alabama Education Association which Hubbert also chairs) became involved with this. In that first half-million that we raised, we discovered that $34,000 of that was from PACs through the AEA. By that time, the AEA was getting the blame for all of it.”

“The AEA has contributed to my PAC — I believe, because (Byrne’s) campaign has been about destroying that association. While the AEA did help fund this, other people did, too. What’s worse? Is it worse taking money from a couple of school teachers or from Mississippi Indians? That’s the way I feel. If anything, I used the AEA as a means to an end. They saw what I was doing and liked it, so they contributed. Everybody wants to know, ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do this?’” Renner said. “I did it because I could.

Reynolds said that the reports that he said that Renner said he was paid $34,000 for his effort by Hubbert and Reed were untrue, that that statement was never made during this interview.

“I have never received one dime of compensation for what I did,” Renner said.

Asked what he thought would become of the Marengo County Republican Party, Renner said, “I could care less. There is no party here. There is a party, but it’s not a very active party. People around here don’t wear their politics on their sleeve like they do elsewhere.

“When I resigned, I told Mr. Reynolds that I still feel that we are a member of the same church; we’re just sitting on different pews.”

Boyd said the state party would hold a meeting in Marengo County soon to reorganize the county’s party.