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Disagreement between GOP treasurer and party chairman results in chairman’s resignation; former chairman to step in

“Based on the events that occurred on the night of our first kickoff meeting, I feel as though I am no longer able to continue my tenure as the chairman.” – Republican Party chairman Omar Lugo in his resignation comments

A dispute with a colleague over a fundraising raffle has become something of a game-ender for the chairman of Alamance County’s Republican Party.

Omar Lugo, who has headed the party’s local organization since the spring of 2021, has stepped down from his post following this frank tête-à-tête with the group’s long-time treasurer, who confronted Lugo about the raffle shortly after the local GOP’s most recent monthly meeting on Thursday.

Omar Lugo

This contentious exchange, which reportedly concerned Lugo’s spotty documentation of ticket sales, apparently gave way to an even broader airing of grievances with other prominent party officials. Less than two days later, Lugo announced his resignation in an email to the group’s executive committee – a veritable who’s who of party officers, elected officials, and candidates running under the GOP’s banner in this year’s “mid-term” election.

In his email to the committee, Lugo made an oblique reference to the fallout from Thursday’s get-together, which was intended to serve as the GOP’s opening salvo in its campaign for the general election.

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“Based on the events that occurred on the night of our first kickoff meeting,” the party’s chairman explained in his communiqué, “I feel as though I am no longer able to continue my tenure as the chairman.”

Lugo didn’t go on to expand on the events that had precipitated his resignation. Nor has he responded to an inquiry from The Alamance News for more details about these apparent moments of reckoning.

The newspaper has nevertheless received an account of what took place at the meeting from Allen Page, who has served as treasurer of Alamance County’s GOP for over four decades.

In an interview earlier this week, Page acknowledged that he and Lugo had a rather tempestuous conversation about the aforementioned raffle, which anyone who entered the meeting was able to enter at a cost of $1 per ticket.

“I came in the door of the meeting and Omar had requested some of the volunteers to sell tickets for a 50/50 raffle,” Page went on to recall, “and I asked one of the ladies if they were taking down the names and the amounts of the tickets.”

Page went on to note that, in his four decades as the party’s treasurer, he has become quite familiar with the state’s record keeping provisions for political fundraisers. These rules require both political parties and candidates to keep track of the dates and amounts of any donations that come into their coffers as well as the names, addresses, and professions of the actual donors. The recipients are only required to report the donor information when a particular contributor gives $50 or more during the course of a single campaign. But, as Page is quick to point out, the recipient must still collect these details for smaller donations in the event that the contributor’s cumulative donations for the campaign put them over the threshold.

“I’ve told Omar since he was elected chairman that every time a dollar comes in, we need a name and an amount because that’s the law.” – Alamance County Republican Party treasurer Allen Page

Page conceded that he had previously explained these requirements to Lugo throughout his year and a half at the head of the party’s local organization.

“I’ve told Omar since he was elected chairman that every time a dollar comes in, we need a name and an amount because that’s the law,” the group’s treasurer recalled. “He had not mentioned to me that there would be a raffle [on Thursday] or I would have also told him that he needs to collect names [from the raffle’s participants].”

Page said that his concerns about the donor information were only heightened when the results of the 50/50 raffle were announced later that evening. Rather than cut the winner a check for half the proceeds, which amounted to a little over $100, Page said that Lugo simply whipped out $50 in cash and handed it over to the lucky individual whose name had been drawn.

Page said that he decided to approach Lugo about his misgivings once the group’s chairman had wrapped up that night’s proceedings.

“We had a good crowd at the meeting,” he added. “So, I waited until Omar was by himself and I told him that we had a problem…His response was ‘I’ll take care of it,’ and I said ‘Omar, it’s impossible to take care of it because you did not take a roll of who attended the meeting and who bought the tickets.”

Page recalled that Lugo grew increasingly irritated with him as he went on to emphasize the importance of proper bookkeeping. According to the group’s treasurer, the chairman even became physical by the end of the conversation.

“He actually ended up hitting me,” Page said.. “He balled up his fist, and hit me as I walked away…and then we went outside, and there was a group of executive committee members waiting for me, and they asked what the heck happened in there.”

Page said that Lugo’s own subsequent exit triggered a more general discussion between the chairman and the other members of the executive members. He added that, by the time all was said and done, roughly two hours had passed, and he and his wife didn’t ultimately return home from the meeting, which let out at about 8:00 p.m., until well after 10:00.

A number of outstanding gripes were apparently aired during Lugo’s two-hour harangue from the other committee members. These recriminations seem to have had a lingering impact on Lugo – as evident from his subsequent email to the executive committee in the small hours of the morning on Saturday.

In announcing his resignation, Lugo didn’t hesitate to remind his colleagues of the party’s accomplishments during his tenure as chairman. He noted, for instance, that many of their fellow Republicans had triumphed in last year’s ostensibly nonpartisan municipal elections. He also hailed the “unique meetings” that had flourished under his watch as well as the 42 Democrats who, by his count, had defected to the Republican Party.

A native of Venezuela, Lugo originally secured the chairmanship of Alamance County’s GOP without opposition in March 2021. At the time, the party was still taking stock of its losses in the 2020 Presidential election, and Lugo ultimately won over the local leadership with his promise to improve the GOP’s standing among Latinos and other minorities.

Shortly after Lugo had dispatched his resignation to the members of executive committee, the group received a second email from their first vice chairman Ben York, who had preceded Lugo as chairman of Alamance County’s Republicans.

“While I did not intend to serve another term as chairman, I believe it is imperative that I step forward to answer the call as I believe Alamance County needs an experienced chairman to finish out this very important election cycle.” – Former, and now interim, county party chairman Ben York

Ben York

York informed his colleagues that, in keeping with the state GOP’s rules for succession, he would temporarily step in for Lugo until the executive committee could name a permanent replacement. The group’s interim chairman went on to acknowledge that some of his fellow Republicans have been urging him to seek that position, which he had previously held for two terms of two years apiece.

“While I did not intend to serve another term as chairman,” York went on to add in his email, “I believe it is imperative that I step forward to answer the call as I believe Alamance County needs an experienced chairman to finish out this very important election cycle.”

The party’s executive officers gave their imprimatur to this changing of the guard in a statement that they passed along to The Alamance News on Tuesday. In this formal announcement, the officers note that Lugo had resigned effective Friday, August 26 and that York has taken his place on an interim basis.

“The party thanks Mr. Lugo for his service to the GOP and his dedication to the cause of freedom,” the statement goes on to assert. “Mr. York served as Chairman from 2015-2021 and, during that time, created a structure and strategy to win elections. The Alamance GOP remains organized and energized as it works to elect an excellent slate of candidates on November 8th.”

As for York’s take on Lugo’s departure, the party’s interim chairman wouldn’t betray anything when he spoke to a reporter from The Alamance News earlier this week.

“I don’t have any comment about anything related to the party,” he said in a brief conversation on Monday.

Page, for his part, insists that York would be a good choice to lead the party through the mid-term election given his knowledge of “the ins and outs of the process and the personalities of everyone in the party.” The group’s treasurer also added that he has no desire to harp on his complaints with Lugo now that he has stepped down from his role as the head of Alamance County’s Republicans.

“We need to put it behind us,” he added, “because our focus needs to be on the elections in November.”

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