Concord, New Hampshire (CNN) - Embattled New Hampshire GOP Chair Jack Kimball resigned his post Thursday, forestalling a planned vote by the party's executive committee that could have ended in his removal.
In an emotional speech, Kimball told the committee he would not continue to be an obstacle to the party's success.
"This party needs to be unified. It can't stand to have what is going on now," he said. "This isn't about me. It never has been.... All of us are Republicans in this room."
The resignation ended weeks of speculation and public sniping, as the entire Republican congressional delegation joined many state leaders in mobilizing to oust Kimball. The coalition of opponents believed the executive committee would reach the majority needed to fire the chairman Thursday night.
Kimball had been dogged by reports of party infighting and poor fundraising numbers since he took office earlier this year. As the ouster attempts gained steam, he had embarked on a vociferous defense of his leadership, saying the party establishment was not open to a tea party leader.
But his defiance turned to resignation Thursday. The chairman hugged supporters as he made his way to the hotel conference room the committee had chosen to accommodate the large audience.
Immediately after an opening prayer by one committee member, Kimball rose to speak. He told the assembled crowd, including a vocal group of tea party supporters, that during his tenure he had worked to unite tea party voters with party establishment.
But, he said, the planned vote on his tenure would tear the party apart.
"We have got to come together and defeat Barack Obama in 2012," he rallied the audience.
Early response from tea party Republicans showed the schism may not end with Kimball's resignation.
"I was very shocked. I was hoping that he would stay and fight," said Cindy Howard, founder of the Claremont Citizens for Lower Taxes, a state tea party group. "I think the establishment has to heed the warning that the party is headed in a more conservative direction."
The job of heading up New Hampshire's Republican Party is a high-profile position given the state's out-sized role in choosing presidential nominees. Vice chair Wayne MacDonald will take over on an interim basis.
Top Republicans Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, state Senate President Peter Bragdon and state House Speaker William O’Brien released a statement saying the party could now "move forward with unity."
– CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report.