Manassas Journal Messenger | Area GOP playing down infighting

Ruth Griggs isn’t the first Republican to endorse a candidate outside her party, but she is one of the few who was asked to resign from the Prince William County Republican Committee.

As of Monday, Griggs, who represented Occoquan on the board of county supervisors, is no longer a member of the committee at the request of the organization’s chairman, Brian Murphy.

“In light of the repeated failure of the committee to address other instances of support for non-Republican candidates, I was surprised by Mr. Murphy’s phone call requesting my resignation,” Griggs wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

“However, I knew that possibility existed when I endorsed Mr. McBride and, therefore, I immediately tendered my resignation when asked,” she wrote.

Griggs is attending law school and decided not to seek a second term. She endorsed independent candidate Robert McBride in the November General Election after revoking her support of Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee.

“I have found that the candidates endorsed by the party are frequently hard to support,” Griggs wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to the editor of the Potomac News, withdrawing her support for Stewart.

McBride, she wrote, is “brave,” “a pleasure to work with” and will tell you what he believes.

“I wish I had been as brave as Robert and that I had worked for him right from the start,” Griggs wrote.

Meanwhile, Murphy said the Republican Committee is trying to aim its focus on supporting Republican candidates for November’s elections.

“There’s no point in making Ruth Griggs the issue any longer — it’s about getting behind our candidate,” said Murphy.

In 1999, Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, endorsed Democrat Kathleen Seefeldt in Seefeldt’s re-election bid for county chairman. Seefeldt lost to Republican Sean T. Connaughton.

Caddigan incurred the wrath of many Republicans when she did that, said Murphy.

“Since then Maureen has been a fantastic member of the committee and … very well respected and liked by all committee members,” he said.

Asking members to resign is rare, he said.

“It’s really when they do something directly — there’s no set formula. We ask them to leave when their actions are very clearly contrary to the committee’s … goals,” he said.

And the local committee is not divided, he said.

“The Republican Committee is one of the main places in the county where county issues are debated and acted on,” he said.

The arguments and debates over those discussions are byproducts of the decision-making process that eventually lead candidates and elected officials to guiding policy, Murphy said.

But Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, I-Gainesville, said the “name calling” and “real nasty bickering” that goes on is driving members away.

“He’s got good people leaving that committee,” Wilbourn said. “If they don’t do something about that problem, they’re not going to have a viable committee for very long.”

Wilbourn is running for re-election as an Independent but still considers himself a Republican.

He applauded Griggs’ firm supportive stance for a member of another party.

“I think she’s perfectly within her rights to do that. I think that shows independent thinking,” said Wilbourn.

He said that the county’s committee should take note on the way Manassas’ Republican Committee functions.

He said the Manassas committee is more professional and avoids in-fighting and grudges.

“If the county’s committee could ever become a model of the Manassas Republican Committee, it would be a great committee,” he said.

The last county Republican Committee meeting he attended was “a few months ago and I went one time since then,” said Wilbourn.

As a member of the Manassas Republican Committee, Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th District, has freedom to support whom he believes in.

He’s been a long-time friend of Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District, who’s running against Republican David Mabie.

Parrish attended an August fund-raiser for Colgan hosted by Gov. Mark R. Warner. He also contributed to the re-election campaign of Supervisor Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge.

“I support a number of people based on who they are, not what party they belong to,” Parrish said. “I support what they stand for.”

Even so, Parrish has not endorsed any Democrats. His only endorsement this year is for Lucy Beauchamp, a Republican who did not get the county party’s endorsement.

Parrish has more than 50 years of elected service to the Manassas area. He was elected to the Manassas Town Council as an independent. When the city incorporated and the seats became partisan, he was a Democrat. Parrish became a Republican in 1979.

The Manassas Republican Committee has never taken a position that requires members support only Republicans, he said.

“I believe the Republican Party to be an encompassing party and we welcome any member who wants to support a majority of the party,” he said. “You’ve got to have the free will to express yourself. I think more people agree with that.”

Planning Commission Chairman Hector Quintana, R-At Large, wondered why people would join a party if they’re not going to endorse fellow members.

Quintana’s been a member of the county’s Republican Committee even after he was booted for non-attendance a few years back.

In response to Griggs’ resignation, he said the committee didn’t behave inappropriately.

“It’s a free-for-all. Every Republican is endorsing all kinds of people,” he said. “We have not always had a track record of enforcing things uniformly.”

Quintana temporarily left the county Republican committee for a few months in 2001 because he violated one of the attendance bylaws, which prohibit members from missing three consecutive party meetings.

At the time he was working on a campaign for Buck Waters, Republican candidate for the 31st District of the House of Delegates.

“I guess some people were a little put off and they wanted to teach me a lesson,” he said.

He walked away for a few months to “let cool heads come out on top” and walked back a few months later and was appointed to the same position he held before he left, he said.

“So much of party time was dedicated to little bits of nonsense like that,” Quintana said. “The problem I had is if the party enforced the rules all the time, I would have never missed the meetings.”

Uniform enforcement of the committee’s rules is essential, he said.

“The Republican Party needs to take a deep breath, take a step back and begin to enforce all of its bylaws,” said Quintana.

Staff writer Chris Newman contributed to this story.

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