LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Republican Party censured U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and nine other GOP representatives Friday for voting in February to impeach former President Donald Trump, in a nearly unanimous vote of the powerful central committee.
The vote made the Cleveland area congressman the eighth of the 10 defectors to be rebuked or censured by a state or local party. Efforts against two others failed to take hold.
The resolution to censure that was approved by the committee called Trump’s second impeachment process meritless, unprecedented, unconstitutional and purposeless. Along a narrower vote, the committee also approved a second resolution, which hadn’t been on the agenda, calling on Gonzalez to resign.
Messages seeking comment were left with both Gonzalez’s campaign and his government office.
The question was brought by a party now led by Bob Paduchik, a Trump adviser and loyalist who ascended as chair after the resignation of Jane Timken, who is pursuing a coveted open Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
Timken has faced criticism from rivals in the GOP Senate primary for as chair initially defending and not rebuking Gonzalez, who has strongly stood by his vote despite an onslaught from party conservatives.
Timken has since called for his resignation and touted her loyalty to and work and fundraising for Trump. Pro-Timken fliers were placed at every seat at Friday’s committee meeting.
Former Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel labeled Gonzalez a “traitor” in a statement and asked “why this process did not happen immediately” under Timken. Cleveland businessperson Bernie Moreno, also a Senate contender, called Gonzalez a “Republican” in quotes, and expressed shock in capital letters that the state GOP is “JUST NOW” censuring him and the others.
The internal jockeying comes as Republican leaders nationally are seeking to unify a party whose base still reveres the former president four months after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Gonzalez, a former college and professional football player, has stood by his decision in favor of impeachment in the face of fierce pushback from his party’s conservative wing.
Trump has endorsed a primary challenger to Gonzalez. The rival, Max Miller, is a veteran of the Trump White House and of the former president’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.