Hours after the top two leaders of the Clark County Republican Party resigned, Ron Paul supporters took complete control.
They changed the locks at party headquarters and announced Thursday they could now focus on electing "genuine" conservatives, leaving infighting behind.
The sudden departure of Chairman Dave Gibbs, Vice Chairman Woody Stroupe and several others completed a purge of establishment GOP officials since Paul backers took over the executive board by sweeping elections at the Clark County Republican Convention this year.
The moves also marked a permanent election year split in the GOP at the county and state levels, with Gibbs and Stroupe both saying they would join forces with "Team Nevada."
The Team Nevada organization is run by the Republican National Committee to help elect presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other Republicans. The RNC plans to run its campaign ground game money through Team Nevada to bypass the Clark County GOP and Nevada Republican Party.
"I'm having a meeting next week with Team Nevada, where I think I can be more productive and elect Republicans," Gibbs said, adding he was tired of battling Paul supporters within the party.
Asked whether he believed Republicans could be successful in Nevada when campaign efforts and loyalties appear so deeply divided, Gibbs said, "I guess we'll find out."
CHANGING THE LOCKS
The newly emboldened leaders of the Clark County GOP seemed glad to get rid of Gibbs. After he and Stroupe announced their resignations to the executive board Wednesday night, Paul supporters left in charge picked an acting chair then changed door locks and computer passwords for security.
"We did it out of common sense," said one GOP insider at the meeting who described events on condition of anonymity. "You want to protect your information."
Cindy Lake, the county party secretary and a Paul supporter, was elected acting chair. In a statement, she said the new leaders would focus on electing Republicans who share their values. Paul promotes smaller government, less spending and taxes and more personal freedoms, for example.
"After months of turbulence and instability following the Executive Board elections held at the Clark County Republican Convention, the CCRP Executive Board is now able to concentrate on the task of developing a consistent, accessible message that will allow the Party to take a large role in electing genuine conservative candidates to office," Lake said. "The CCRP Executive Board is looking forward to working together with Republicans across Clark County towards increasing Republican registration, building a strong, robust party, and achieving electoral success in the November elections."
The statement was signed "in liberty," the motto of Paul backers who believe the federal government has become too big, too expensive and too intrusive.
Paul supporters have been slowly gaining leadership positions in the party for several years. The tension between the Paul faction and establishment GOP leaders came to a head last week.
On a 184-182 vote, the Clark County GOP central committee passed a resolution rebuking RNC leader Reince Priebus for setting up a joint committee with the Romney campaign to raise money and prepare for the November battle to beat President Barack Obama.
The resolution also called for Priebus' resignation for helping Romney before he's the official GOP nominee and while Paul has stated his intent to stay in the race through the Republican National Convention in August in Tampa, Fla. Paul's campaign said it had no problem with the RNC arrangement, despite the anger of his supporters.
A PARTY DIVIDED
In the wake of the resolution, RNC leaders decided to bypass the Clark County and Nevada GOP, which is run by a new chairman, Michael McDonald, who was elected with the help of Paul backers.
Gibbs said several Republicans called him after the resolution passed and said they would no longer contribute to the county party. He said money was drying up for the state party, too.
"There has never been an effort by this group of (Paul) people to become members of the team," Gibbs said, adding it led to a string of departures at the party. "A lot of folks have said we're done."
On Thursday, Gibbs said he was getting a lot of calls from Republicans congratulating him for leaving the county party, with some telling him, "Welcome to Team Nevada."
So far, Team Nevada has opened one office in Las Vegas. It plans to open several other offices statewide in June and may work closely with the Washoe County Republican Party as well.
Romney and the RNC are hoping Paul supporters in Nevada and a handful of other states where he has strong support don't cause the GOP headaches at the national convention in August.
Nevada is sending 28 delegates to the national GOP convention, including 22 who have expressed support for Paul. Romney is still supposed to get 20 votes from the delegation on the first nomination ballot in Tampa because he won the most support in the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucuses here.
But some Paul delegates could revolt on the first ballot while others are hoping there's a second round of voting when they'd be allowed to nominate Paul instead of casting a binding vote for Romney.
The Texas congressman's national campaign has said his strategy is to pack the convention with loyal supporters so he can win a speaking role at Tampa and a bigger say in the party platform.
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.