Burlington GOP chair resigns, says party ‘hijacked by far-right extremists’

Former Burlington Republican Party chair Kolby LaMarche. Courtesy photo.

Updated at 6:43 p.m.

The 19-year-old chair of the Burlington Republican Party resigned his leadership position Thursday — and announced he was leaving the party altogether.

Kolby LaMarche, a Champlain College student who was first elected in September 2019, faced intense criticism from party members in recent weeks after publicly blasting former President Donald Trump and leaders of the Vermont Republican Party.

“While I am proud of the work I and others have done, this important progress has been persistently and actively undermined by extreme elements of the party leadership, both at the state and local level,” LaMarche wrote in a commentary he sent to VTDigger on Thursday. 

“As a result of their fixation on loyalty to narcissistic national leaders and their adoption of a politics of personal revenge, I am disappointed to conclude that it is no longer productive for me to serve the remainder of my term as chair.”

Like some other Vermont Republicans, LaMarche had criticized state party chair Deb Billado for declining to condemn Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol. Trump was later impeached by the U.S. House for allegedly inciting insurrection and, last Saturday, acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Billado said she was disappointed to learn of LaMarche’s resignation and thanked him for his work to elect Republicans to state and federal office.  

“As with any large organization like the VTGOP there are many diverse voices and opinions and it is up to all of us to value all those voices even if we do not agree on everything,” Billado said. “We will miss Kolby’s voice in the party and hope that he recognizes that a big tent requires tolerance and acceptance of all voices.”

In recent weeks, several members of the Burlington Republican Party had tried to organize a meeting to force LaMarche’s ouster. Among them was party member Gus Klein, who wrote in an email to LaMarche that the chair did not “have the right to speak on my or anyone else’s behalf, unless it has been clearly vetted through everyone being represented within the Burlington party.”

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“I for one do not have the same beliefs that you have,” Klein wrote. 

In an interview Thursday, LaMarche said he saw “no good reason why I should stay serving as chair.” His term would have expired in September. “I’m not comfortable with being attached to a party that has … serious issues with itself, with its principles, and its current leadership,” he said. 

In his letter, LaMarche said the Vermont Republican Party has been “hijacked by far-right extremists” and “rather than doing the hard and necessary work of improving Vermonters’ lives and engaging constructively to move our state forward, they would rather embrace the easy answers of bigotry, divisiveness and destruction.”

Explaining his decision to leave the GOP entirely, LaMarche wrote, “Since it is abundantly clear that current party leadership is determined to destroy the party’s integrity and electoral future for their own personal gain, I see no way for me to stay true to my own principles while remaining within the party.”

It was not immediately clear Thursday who would succeed LaMarche as chair.

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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