Leaders in three Frederick County Republican groups are calling County Council President Bud Otis a “bait-and-switch” candidate and want him to resign, weeks after Otis announced he was leaving the party to become an unaffiliated voter.
The heads of the Republican County Central Committee and Frederick County Republican Club — Billy Shreve and Mark Schaff, respectively — along with the vice chairman of Frederick County Young Republicans, Brian Harris, released the statement Saturday night.
The 622-word statement is the longest formal response by the organizations since Otis announced on May 19 that he was leaving the party. Otis said he made the decision in response to “outrageous, mean-spirited” attacks by county leaders of the party to which he formerly belonged.
“I think the direction of the Republican Central Committee is not where the majority of this county is, among Republican voters,” Otis said Tuesday. He said he does not plan to resign.
The statement released from the Republican groups said they wanted to “express a heartfelt thank you for finally acknowledging that you are not a Republican, do not represent Republicans, and we are grateful that you have turned in your card.”
The statement criticizes Otis’ votes on the council, in which he often sided with a three-Democrat minority, before changing his affiliation.
The statement says that Otis campaigned and was elected as a Republican, trading on the reputation of Roscoe Bartlett, the Republican former congressman for whom Otis worked as chief of staff, and former Board of County Commissioners President Blaine Young, whose campaign shared donor information and endorsed Otis’ run for council.
Particular actions that irked the groups’ membership were Otis’ votes on county spending — which have increased the overall budget and allowed the county to assess property taxes above the base rate set by the state of Maryland — and getting rid of an ordinance that set English as the official language of county government.
“Councilman Bud Otis did all of this for his own benefit and aspirations,” the statement read. “He did so because he knew he would never be elected as a Democrat. He used our conservative values, our Party, its members, and constituents all in the name of deception.”
The party leaders said their goal is to allow the central committee to “place a true conservative on the council, which is what the voters of Frederick County intended when they voted.”
The group also suggested that voters should be entitled to a refund of their campaign contributions.
Otis received a little less than $48,000 in contributions during his bid for an at-large position on the council, according to campaign finance reports filed in 2014.
Nearly all of that money was spent; at the end of his campaign, Otis had about $366.21 left in the bank, according to the filings. At a mandatory filing deadline in December, his campaign committee reported that it had not received or spent more than $1,000 in the past year.
Shreve, who is also an at-large member of the council, acknowledged in an interview that Otis would not be legally required to return any contributions, but said he’s heard from voters who want their money back.
At least one person is considering a lawsuit seeking a return of the funds, Shreve said.
“I told them, ‘If you can find an attorney that’s willing to do it, I will bring it before the [central] committee for a vote,’” Shreve said, referring to the possibility of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Frederick County Republicans.
Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College, said campaign refunds are typically initiated by candidates who receive illegal donations or money from unsavory donors. Refunds are also typically made or requested during the election cycle, Kromer said.
“This is not the common practice,” Kromer said. “You don’t hear about this every day.”
Kromer said she knew of no legal obligation Otis had to return donations.
Otis said that he will not resign and has received a “tremendous” amount of support since announcing his affiliation change. He said he regarded donations during the election as support for himself, and not the county’s Republican party.
“People donated money to Friends of Bud Otis. And I consider them my friends. They’re calling me and telling me that I am reflecting their positions,” Otis said.
Otis said voters can challenge his record, naturally, but he wouldn’t go back and change any vote he’s cast on the council.