The UMaine College Republicans infamously made a name for themselves by supporting white nationalist Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes and inviting ultra-conservative pundit Michelle Malkin to speak in Maine. Now a fight over that name has exposed an ugly ideological rift atop the state GOP, as a far-right faction challenges the party’s more mainstream leadership. Lately, it seems the far-right is winning.
Earlier this month, the University of Maine Student Government voted to give a new group of students the right to operate as the UMaine College Republicans. Former UMaine CR leaders Charlie Honkonen and Jeremiah Childs were allowed to organize as the UMaine Constitutional Republicans. Honkonen and Childs are also the two leaders of an entity called the Maine Federation of College Republicans.
The white-nationalist wing of the state Republican Party, led by Vice-Chair Nick Isgro, objected to the student government’s decision. Some members launched a “meme war” on Maine GOP officials for, in their view, not sufficiently supporting Honkonen and Childs, including an open call for the ouster of Maine GOP Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas. The far-right-wingers also derided the new UMaine CRs, calling them “Communists,” “paid intern cucks,” and “Globalist Pro-Choice Rhinos.”
Isgro has previously spread white-nationalist propaganda, including the “Great Replacement” theory that imagines a conspiracy, orchestrated on a global scale by wealthy Jews, to replace white people with darker skinned, non-European immigrants. Isgro, who’s also the Mayor of Waterville, once claimed on a Facebook livestream that abortion providers were funded by the goverment “so we can kill our own people,” while “global elites” bring immigrants into America “to be used for our own destruction.”
“Apparently there is an imposter group of students trying to register as [UMaine CRs], and the school has not decided if they will let them take the name,” Isgro tweeted in support of Childs and Honkonen. “This cont’d harassment of the real club is unacceptable. As Vice Chair, I find it loathsome that [UMaine] doesn’t put an immediate end to this bullying and recognize the real club with their new advisor.”
In a private Facebook group called Maine Republican Grassroots, Childs posted screenshots showing the new UMaine CR President, Anna Zmistowski, retweeting Michelle Obama and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, apparently in an effort to prove she’s a leftist Manchurian candidate for the club’s presidency.
Zmistowski denounced Child’s posts. “I am a Republican who adamantly supports limited government, family values, 2nd Amendment rights, and capitalism,” she told Mainer. “I worked for Senator Collins for two years while attending the University of Maine, and was proud of it.” Zmistowski added that she interned with Trump Victory in Maine and the Maine GOP, as well as former Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin.
Childs did not answer requests for comment, but on Facebook he called Zmistowski a “raging feminist who hates our club,” and “even wants our president to be impeached.”
Isgro’s attempt to pressure UMaine to recognize Hoknonen and Childs as the legitimate leaders of the CRs prompted Chairwoman Kouzounas to write the Student Government to clarify that Isgro did not speak on behalf of the party. She pointed out that only the national College Republican organization, and the university itself, are responsible for recognizing or chartering on-campus groups
“The issue is that Vice Chair Nick Isgro misunderstood the organizational structure of the College Republicans,” wrote Kouzounas. “Additionally, he did not speak to me, the Executive Committee or the members of the State Republican Committee to ask for guidance and authorization to send out a letter to the University of Maine representing all of us.”
Kouzounas’ letter infuriated far-right Republicans, including conservative radio host Mike Violette, who began calling on the chairwoman to resign. The UMaine Constitutional Republicans claimed that the state party has been out to get them since last fall, when a party official chastised the students for a racist Facebook post about Columbus Day.
Eventually, the Isgro wing of the party won the battle. On Feb. 1, the Maine GOP State Committee voted to send a letter urging UMaine Student Government to “stand up and protect the free speech rights” of Honkonen and Childs and recognize them as the UMaine CRs’ rightful leaders.
The Student Government was not swayed, and voted to recognize Zmistowski’s group on Feb. 4.
Isgro announced on Twitter that Honkonen and Childs planned to attend a white nationalist conference in Washington D.C. tonight. The event features Fuentes and neo-nazi Patrick Casey, and is being organized by Malkin.
“Say hi to Michelle Malkin for me while you’re in DC,” Isgro posted on Twitter. He congratulated the pair for making the trip and for bringing Malkin to Maine last month, an event the mayor described as “igniting Maine’s grassroots.”