Sussex County GOP Vice Chair Nelly Jordan was removed from her position Jan. 13 by a vote of the county GOP executive board.
The vote of no confidence was taken in closed session by 64 members of the executive committee. Sussex County GOP Chairman Don Petitmermet did not have a breakdown of the votes, but he said it was close. “The no-confidence vote was taken after lengthy, spirited debate,” he said.
More than 100 GOP members attended the executive committee meeting held at the CHEER Center in Georgetown, dozens of them wearing “I stand with Nelly” signs. Several voiced their displeasure with the vote after the nearly two-hour disciplinary hearing was finished and the decision to remove her was announced.
Jordan’s dismissal comes on the heels of anti-Semitic remarks she made on her Facebook page in December that took aim at Jewish congressmen involved in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. She called them Jews “In Name Only” and referred to them as spiders catching flies and bugs.
Jordan originally defended her remarks but later issued an apology after receiving criticism from Republicans in both houses of the General Assembly and across the state. State GOP Chairwoman Jane Brady released a statement saying, “The remarks made by Nelly Jordan, who was elected to her post by the Sussex County GOP Executive Committee, were offensive, hurtful and anti-Semitic.”
The Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia also condemned Jordan's comments. “Anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT bigotry and all forms of hate are un-American, and have no place in our political parties. We applaud the Delaware Republican Party, the Delaware State House of Representatives Republican Caucus and individual Republican state lawmakers for showing courage and character in strongly rejecting this hateful sentiment, and for taking meaningful action to demonstrate that the Delaware GOP will not tolerate bigotry,” the ADL wrote.
Jordan will not be permitted to hold a leadership position for two election cycles, Petitmermet said late Monday evening following the decision to remove her.
Despite the close vote, Petitmermet said he doesn’t expect a split in the Sussex County GOP.
“There are two different issues driving the people,” he said. “I think it has divided people over where different issues fall in their personal feelings. One is the issue of free speech and standing up. And the other is can you be effective given whatever people have said and done. I think everyone, no matter how they voted, truly felt they were doing what was best for all concerned.”
Lewes resident Larry Mayo said the executive session vote was supposed to be a secret ballot, but everyone knows he supported Jordan.
“To me, having read what she wrote, she didn't say anything anti-Semitic,” Mayo said. “It was people twisting her words and making them anti-Semitic. Jews is not a bad word. In my opinion, Jews in name only is standing with Judaism, just like Republicans in name only is standing with Republicans.”
After the Monday meeting adjourned, Mayo took the microphone to nominate Frank Knotts for vice chair – a blogger who first shared Jordan's Facebook post about Jewish congressmen. Knotts said he realizes the nomination was a parting shot at him, but he did not rule it out.
“If I were, it would be an extremely uphill battle. I have a long history with the committee, and some people like me and some people not so much,” the Bridgeville resident said. “My role as a registered voter is to do what I did with the Nelly story, which is to bring it to other Republicans' attention.”
Knotts said several New Castle residents attended the meeting, wearing “I stand with Nelly” signs. One of those was Chris Rowe, a former New Castle GOP chair, who was recently removed from his post after posting a homophobic comment on social media.
“A lot of the people wearing signs weren't actually in the committee,” he said. “They were people there supporting her … She had support in the room, and she had support in the committee, but they weren't all the same people.”
Petitmermet said a new vice chair will be sought, and appointed if everyone agrees. If there is no agreement, he said, an election process will be held, but that could take place close to the group’s reorganization meeting held annually after the November election.