AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A Maine Republican National Committee member and six state committee members have resigned and left the GOP, a sign of continued tensions within in the party as it attempts to unify ahead of the 2014 elections.

Libertarian-leaning RNC member Mark Willis of Washington County and the others resigned in a letter Sunday, citing concerns about the party's direction in Maine and across the country. The letter was signed by six others Republicans, including former Senate candidate Scott D'Amboise and Sam Canders, who challenged Rick Bennett for state party chair last month. All 13 said they are withdrawing from the party.

"We can no longer associate ourselves with a political party that goes out of its way to continually restrict our freedoms and liberties as well as reaching deeper and deeper into our wallets," they wrote in the letter to the state GOP.

The group pointed to a number of issues including Maine GOP lawmakers' failure to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget, which raised the meals and lodging and sales taxes. It also criticized Republicans in Congress for backing "feel good," restrictive and ineffective gun control legislation.

"If they want to stop others from leaving ... then they need to start following the platform of the Republican Party and start legislating and governing like Republicans are supposed to be," Willis said Monday.

Bennett said that while he hates to lose any members, he respects their decision to leave. He dismissed notions that the resignations were a sign of the party's weakness, but emphasized the need to present a unified front for the 2014 election.

"As we move within an election year, we need to unify and set some of those differences aside in order to execute and implement," he said. "I respect that fact that before we get into an election year these good people decided that they don't want to express themselves through the Republican Party and the offices any longer."

The group also denounced rules adopted at the 2012 Republican National Convention that make it more difficult for insurgent candidates to get nominated, which faced sharp criticism from supporters of 2012 presidential candidate and former congressman Ron Paul.