Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's Attorney General, was purged from the membership after endorsing Republican-turned-Independent candidate Delegate Bill Janis who left the Party to run against the Republican nominee for Henrico commonwealth's attorney. At that time, Cuccinelli was quoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Cuccinelli said political affiliation has little to do with decisions made by local leaders, nor should it get in the way of selecting, or endorsing, the best candidate in a race.Janis, a popular legislator who has served in House leadership for years and is the current Republican Whip, decided to run for commonwealth's attorney after the vetted Republican candidate, Matthew Geary, was deemed by some to be unsuitable for the position.
"I'm a Republican because I fit better there, but it's not the reason for my being, politically," he said.
Cuccinelli was in good company with other top Virginia Republicans who had endorsed Janis and found themselves facing removal due to a Republican Party of Virginia bylaw. U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell were all purged from their Republican committees.
The way the bylaw reads, any other elected officials or Republican activists who endorse Janis can also be removed from their respective GOP committees.
That may be an issue for Lacey Putney, a long-time Independent who has caucused with Republicans for over 20 years, and who has found himself in a similar situation this year after Republicans put up a contender against him. His colleagues and long-time supporters, some who hold leadership positions in the GOP and who have been donors to his campaign, have found themselves caught in the middle. Putney also faces a Democrat in that race so there is the question of whether Republicans may lose a seat that has been GOP-friendly for years.
The automatic removal rule can be reversed by local committees who need a two-thirds vote to reinstate ousted members. For Cantor, Bolling, Cuccinelli, and Howell, that may not come until after the elections.
Ironically, today is Bill Janis' birthday but some are hesitant to send him public birthday wishes because of the rule, wondering if it would be declared a "public endorsement" of an Independent.
Facebook discussion was lively Friday evening when news got out of the removals of the four high-ranking Republican leaders. "This will probably happen to me one day," read one response. Another wrote, "Dear RPV: Please amend this rule to allow exceptions. It's a great rule in principle but the Janis race shows what happens when the wrong candidate is nominated and people must take stands of principle."
Someone else commented, "I think they need to get rid of that rule entirely. Many times there are candidates who just aren't trustworthy and to tell someone they have to vote against their interests or leave the party is just crazy."
Meanwhile, the news has traveled. Blogs -- those on the left and those on the right -- have picked up on the action as well as the Washington Post, UPI, Live Wire, and others, and news of the removals didn't escape Twitter.
Even the Dallas Morning News headlined it online along with the Toronto Star, and Roland Martin Reports. Others across the country reposted the Washington Post article including iStock Analyst, News in Politics, and Political News Network.
Virginia's elections will be held on November 8th.
Cross-posted at Bearing Drift