ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — A GOP committee in West Michigan ousted its treasurer after he was publicly critical of the lack of COVID-19 precautions at a recent district meeting and told The New York Times he didn't vote for former President Donald Trump.
“It's become a cult of personality, where it's fealty above all else,” Jason Watts told WXMI.
Watts has been involved in Republican politics for more than two decades, most recently serving as an Allegan County election official and until this weekend as a treasurer for the GOP’s 6th Congressional District Committee.
The committee held a vote Saturday to remove him from his position.
“They ousted me unanimously, 26 to nothing,” Watts said.
Watts believes he was removed in part because of his comments in a February New York Times article, where he was critical of Trump and admitted he never voted for him. In the article, he says he cast his ballot for independent candidate Evan McMullin in 2016 and Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen in 2020.
“But I did a lot of things to secure Donald Trump's election in the district,” Watts added. ”I felt I could separate those two. People in the district did not, they felt betrayed."
Watts was recently hospitalized with COVID-19 after attending a district meeting in Portage. He believes publicly talking in a story with The Detroit News about the lack of COVID-precautions at the meeting also led to committee members wanting him out.
“You had very few people wearing masks, and at least six people contracted COVID,” Watts explained.
In a document provided to WXMI, the committee says Watts violated bylaws by “providing false information to the committee during the past convention. Providing false information to the chairman of the committee. Serving as the unofficial spokesperson for the committee and attacking it publicly,” and engaging in behavior harmful to the party.
6th District GOP Chair Scott McGraw did not provide comment for our story.
Watts refutes the charges and says its simply because he’s not a Trump loyalist, adding that his removal will set a bad precedent for the district moving forward.
“All my hard work, all my devotion to the district doesn't matter one iota. It was all about whether I could prove this blood loyalty to Trump,” Watts said.
“I feel strongly in the ‘big tent.’ In the ‘big tent’ you could disagree on candidates even in the general election and it didn't really matter because 90% of the time you're agreeing to the platform of low taxes. limited government, individual responsibility, and strong national defense. And that's what mattered, it was our ideas that matter,” Watts explained. “Now, it's making sure you have loyalty to an individual who lost the election, which the majority there do not believe he lost the election."
Watts still considers himself a Republican, but told the New York Times he feels “like a man without a party."
This story was originally published by Aaron Parseghian at WXMI.