Donald Trump and his team have been installing loyalists in leadership posts in state Republican Party organizations, and they're punishing anyone who challenges the former president's ownership of the GOP.
Pro-Trump party chairs are endorsing primary challengers to GOP incumbents like Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who voted to certify Joe Biden's election win, joking about assassinating GOP House members who voted to impeach the former president, and censuring or rebuking lawmakers who haven't shown enough fealty, reported Politico.
"It's purity tests, 100 percent," said Landon Brown, a GOP state lawmaker from Wyoming. "When it comes to the party, what I have started seeing, especially in the past four to five years … it's much more a hard-line, defined, 'If you don't vote this way, you're not a Republican.'"
GOP leaders most focused on fundraising and building up their state party, but Trump's influence has turned them into enforcers against state senators and governors who draw the former president's ire for reasons big or small.
"The party's been taken over by people who have been elected since he became the president who in effect said, 'Get on the team or shut up,'" said Allen Weh, a Trump ally and former chair of the New Mexico Republican Party.
The pro-Trump inclination of state party chairs around the country will directly impact the types of candidates who are on ballots in next year's midterms and those who get the most party resources, according to Republican strategist John Thomas.
"Party chairs can decide where to invest in things like voter registration and all that," Thomas said. "So, if they have a particular incumbent they don't like that doesn't line up with the Trump world view, they can penalize incumbents and potential challengers as well."