Mr. Willis was on his state’s general election ballot as the write-in vice presidential running mate of the senior Mr. Paul, the last Republican candidate still standing when Mr. Romney clinched the party’s nomination last summer.
Party regulars see the Willis insurgency as a move by a segment of Ron Paul’s most dedicated supporters to take over the GOP, and an expression of lingering anger over a floor fight centered on the Maine delegation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The delegation staged a walkout when a slate of Maine delegates pledged to Mr. Paul — including Mr. Willis — were replaced by RNC officials with Romney backers, citing violations of party nominating procedures.
Mr. Willis, in a recent interview with the website blogcritics.org, praised Mr. Priebus for putting the RNC’s financial house in order over the past two years, but added, “that’s really his only claim to fame and all he has to campaign on.”
“I want to get those people who have stopped donating [and are] staying away from the party and give them a reason to get excited again,” he said. “If you’re a Republican and you’ve got ideas, you’re welcome and no one is going to be driven away or ostracized like some of our delegates in Tampa.”
Many Priebus supporters agree with Mr. Willis‘ suggestions and recommendations for improving the party’s message and procedures, but question whether he was loyal to the Republican presidential ticket because his name was put on the Maine general election ballot in September after Mr. Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin had clinched the nomination.
Mr. Willis told The Times that four of Maine’s electors got him qualified as a write-in candidate without his knowledge.
One of the four electors recently wrote Mr. Willis a letter of apology for not having asked his permission before signing, with the other three electors, a notarized request to the Maine secretary of state’s office for his write-in candidacy status.