Howell backs out on GOP fund-raiser

The soon-to-be House Speaker William J. Howell backed out of a Republican fund-raiser that was to be held Wednesday at the Pilot House.

Why he backed out depends on who you talk to.

The Prince William County Republican Committee, which voted to opposed the sales tax referendum in June, expected Howell to be the keynote speaker until three House members reportedly pressured him not to come, committee members said.

“He was the main event. People were coming to see the speaker,” said committee chairman Bruce Baxter. “He told me he wasn’t going to come because he was told by [Delegates John A.] Rollison, [Michele B.] McQuigg, and [Harry J.] Parrish that we were going to use the money to campaign against them. That’s what he told me.”

The Republican delegate from Fredericksburg did not return a phone message Monday. McQuigg was unavailable Monday.

Baxter said the event was a committee fund-raiser for its normal operations, so some of the money could have gone to opposing the referendum.

Rollison said Howell backed out after he learned the money would go to oppose the referendum.

“If you’re going to have a fund-raiser before the election and use it for that, you should say so,” Rollison said.

Parrish said he only spoke with Howell because they were at an event together. Howell told him about a fund-raiser and Parrish only told him to check out what it was for.

Howell spoke Saturday to the Manassas Republican Committee which has not taken a position on the referendum.

Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District, termed the action by the three delegates as “guerrilla warfare.”

“Whether [the committee] spends its money for its overwhelmingly expressed will is not the point,” Lingamfelter said. The party is expected to have fund-raisers during the year, he said. “The proponents have themselves to blame in a way for creating a firestorm for something that was designed to be a neutral event.”

Referendum proponents say that the committee voted to oppose the referendum on an inaccurate voice vote and would not allow a count. Votes that led up to the final vote were around 40-plus against the referendum versus 30-plus votes in support, people attending the meeting said.

Both sides say the inner-party squabble is unfortunate and detracts from the issue.

The committee will have a fund-raiser Saturday at Baxter’s house, billed as a “Barbecue on the bank of the Broad Run” with a pig roast. All that money will go to opposing the referendum, committee members said.

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