State Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef resigned Wednesday in a letter sent to the party’s executive committee and Gov. Phil Bryant.
As chairman, Nosef was the de facto leader of the state Republican Party, heading the GOP Executive Committee.
Nosef’s letter did not list a reason for the resignation.
“While there is never a perfect time for a transition, I believe that right now will be the best time to allow you and the State Executive Committee to choose a new chairman and give that person time to prepare for what’s ahead in the coming months,” Nosef wrote.
The party chairman position will remain vacant until the executive committee elects a new chairman. A special meeting may be called as soon as two weeks, several executive committee members said.
Gov. Bryant later Wednesday evening sent GOP Executive Director Marcy Scoggins and executive committee members a letter, recommending that the committee elect Lucien Smith, former chief of staff to both Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour, as chairman.
“Lucien is a lifelong Republican, and a true conservative,” Bryant wrote. “His conservative values are our values, and I know he is well equipped to lead us into the future. I hope you will elect Lucien to serve as Chairman and join me in supporting him as he leads the party forward.”
Nosef, an attorney at Watkins and Eager in Jackson, was unanimously elected chairman of the state party in January 2012. Re-elected in 2016, he was set to serve a four-year term.
Since 2014, Nosef has twice faced public calls for resignation from Mississippi Tea Party officials.
Mississippi Tea Party leaders in 2014 insisted that Nosef apologize and resign after telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Chris McDaniel, who had just narrowly lost to Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Senate primary, could cost the party a Senate seat by speaking at a pro-gun rally alongside a segregationist vendor.
Nosef pushed back and refused to resign, citing his past efforts to bring unity to the establishment and Tea Party factions of the party.
In 2016, Mitch Tyner, a close ally of McDaniel, called for Nosef’s resignation after he said the chairman threatened to remove delegates from the meeting in effort to thwart a President Donald Trump nomination. Nosef blew off the call for resignation, saying, “This angle and this story is the opposite of the truth.”
In January 2017, Nosef was unanimously elected to lead the Southern Region of the Republican National Committee, serving as one of eight vice-chairmen of the national committee.
Nosef was Barbour’s campaign manager in 2007 as the governor sought a second term. He also served as chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who was elected governor in 2011.