“Country Before Party” -- Oregon Republican Mainstream Members in Exile

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Lee Coleman, a founder of Republican Mainstream Oregon, was forced out of the organization he created ten years ago, because he voiced his opposition to Bush.

– Lee Coleman has been a Republican since he turned 18 in 1949. He grew up in a Republican family, served in the Air Force during the Korean War, later became a law student, worked in legal publishing, and become a real state investor. No matter the changes in Coleman’s life, one thing was constant: He is a strong believer of the core principles of the Republican Party, and has always been involved in Republican Party activities. In 1994, Coleman and a small group of fellow moderate Republicans founded Republican Mainstream Oregon. The group advocates “big tent Republicanism” -- “an open inclusive party and its core historic values: individual rights, fiscal responsibility and a system of limited government.”

On July 9th 2004, Coleman read an article in the local newspaper, The Oregonian, discovering that the Republican party was helping independent candidate Ralph Nader get on the Oregon presidential ballot. Reading further, Coleman noted with great surprise the statement "Lee Coleman, a member of the Oregon Republican Party Central Committee, says he will oppose Bush." Although Coleman had spoken to the article's author previously, he had no idea he was being interviewed.

Vindictive, punitive action started immediately after the newspaper hit the streets. Within hours Coleman was asked to leave a meeting of Republican enthusiasts, and the president of Republican Mainstream Oregon called in a highly agitated state, demanding that Coleman resign as the organization's Executive Director. Coleman also received angry phone calls from various Republicans and was told that a young party enthusiast was threatening to shoot him. Days later, Coleman resigned from the organization he helped create, and worked with for over ten years -- an organization he regarded as his political home.

Today, Lee Coleman and two other members of Republican Mainstream Oregon are core members of Republicans for Kerry Oregon, working with the national Republicans for Kerry ‘04 group in promoting the Kerry-Edwards campaign. Like most of the members of Republicans for Kerry ‘04, the decision to oppose his own party’s candidate was one of the most difficult he has made in his political life. “At no time did anyone ever ask me for reasons during this ordeal,” Coleman said recently. “But there are good reasons for opposing Bush … and it is my own declaration of independence.”

[Coleman has summarized his reasons for opposing Bush in a twenty-three point indictment. For a copy of this and other articles from former members of Republican Main Stream Oregon, contact media@republicansforkerry04.org]

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Bruce Mackinlay
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