“First of All, James Ball III, you are full of poop,” wrote one Republican Party functionary to another in a bitter, paramilitary-tinged rift over the future of the GOP in Multnomah County, Oregon.
“That is a legal term used by bible believing Christians,” the email continued, “who want to say something much much stronger but err on the side of caution.”
The author was Tim Sytsma, a precinct committee person, or PCP, for the Multnomah County Republican Party who helped arrange for an associate of the Proud Boys, the right-wing street gang, to provide security for a recent meeting in which the county chair was recalled. The target of his email, Ball, is also a PCP, though he’s stuck by ousted chair Stephen Lloyd and has led the effort to get him back in power.
The beef — aired out in a series of stories over the past month by the Portland-based Willamette Week (WW) — is part of a pattern playing out in some form around the country: Fringe and even violent movements like the Proud Boys are muscling their way into internal Republican Party politics.
“I have no fear,” Sytsma wrote in another email reported by WW. “I have friends, neighbors, 3%ers people, my Proud Boy and Plain Clothes ‘security friends’…some who live within 6 blocks of me.…both in Uniform and OUT, I have contacted my local Precinct, they won’t be responding to any ‘Swat calls’…I enthusiastically practice my 2nd Amendment Rights,.…so frankly.…A phone call and I have more pals at my aid in literally single digit minutes than I can ever need.”
On Thursday night, the two sides held dueling Multnomah County Republican Party meetings to elect seemingly dueling party chairs, at hotels two miles apart from each other. The Oregon Republican Party, whose chair reportedly attended the meeting at which Lloyd was recalled, has yet to weigh in on the situation, and did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. But the state party will presumably need to get involved eventually as the Portland-area GOP descends into chaos.
“Both sides are claiming to be the official Multnomah County Republican Party,” said Ball, who voiced his frustration to TPM that the county party was getting involved with the Proud Boys.
“There are a lot of us who are pushing back against these actual racists and racist-adjacent people who are members of the party.”
An Unwelcome Security Team At Church
The story in Multnomah County, which is home to both Democrat-dominated Portland and a strong contingent of right-wing militia types, started with anger and frustration over Lloyd’s effort to make the party “open to everyone,” including with more public-facing meetings.
To some, that was simply too much. In early May, a faction of the party scheduled a recall vote.
“The Chairman should promote the Party Platform, and not state [that] ‘Diversity is an extremely important part of society and diversity of ideas is what we should be striving for,’” the recall petition read.
The petition cited the supposed danger posed by local anti-fascist activists, asserting, “We dare not announce where and when we are meeting in the city of the original Antifa group, Rose City Antifa, which continues to actively hurt people and damage property nightly in Portland!”
But the May 6 recall vote was unusual.
For one thing, its location, a Portland church, was not publicized ahead of time, WW reported. More suspicious still, an associate of the Proud Boys, Daniel Tooze Sr., provided volunteer security at the door as his associates roamed around the neighborhood.
Ball told TPM the meeting included an unfamiliar crowd that he eventually heard were Proud Boys.
“We showed up at the recall meeting, and it was odd to see these people that I didn’t recognize in their 20s and 30s, big beards, black jackets, and it was pretty clear that they had firearms under their jackets,” he recalled.
Ball said he didn’t want to pick a fight with people he believed were armed, but that he was upset about the group’s presence.
“Openly associating with these guys is not something the party should be doing,” he said.
It’s not clear whether Tooze, the registered agent of Proud Security Inc., is a formal member of the Proud Boys — the group has a multi-step initiation process. But he has associated with and promoted the group for years, WW and the Daily Beast reported. He told the latter outlet that he didn’t object to being described as a Proud Boy associate and told WW, “I identify as a Proud Boy whenever I feel like it, just like I would if I was an Elk member.”
Sytsma, who did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment, denied to WW last month that he knew about Tooze’s ties to the Proud Boys, instead referring to the security team as “a volunteer security group from a gentleman from Oregon City.”
The vote to recall Lloyd, Ball said on a podcast with the ousted chair published May 15, was 47-36.
‘You Just Can’t Do That’
But the intra-party friction didn’t end there. At a subsequent county GOP meeting on May 17, several party members were not allowed into the venue, another church in town. Ball and others said they saw Proud Boy associates providing security for this meeting, as well, though Tooze told WW that he attended as a member of the party, not security.
“The second time, at the May 17 meeting, they were physically keeping people out of the meeting,” Ball told TPM. “Which, again you just can’t do that.”
“I overheard one of them even saying that he’s not even a Republican,” he added. “So that guy in particular– Proud Boy, yes, but Republican, no. He was not there to be involved. He was there to be intimidating.”
Undeterred, Ball and nearly 20 others held a meeting in the parking lot — and voted to reelect Lloyd party chair.
To them, that parking lot meeting was the scene of the real Multnomah County GOP meeting.
TPM’s email to the acting chair of the other party, Alan Conner, went unanswered.
But an email from the address “MCRP_Truth” asserted to WW that Lloyd’s recall was done legally — in contrast with the parking lot meeting, which the emailer said was “not legal, not correct and won’t stand.”
“Fact: We are not ashamed of our security provided,” the email added. “Fact: Being ‘associated’ with something doesn’t make it wrong or evil.”
At press time Friday, Lloyd was still listed as county GOP chair on the Oregon Republican Party’s website. But the party will need to make a more explicit choice soon, Ball said: On Saturday, the ORP is having a statewide meeting, and will need to determine which Multnomah County Republican Party delegation is legitimate.
“The ORP will have to choose one,” he said. “So that’s probably where this ends.”