Rift opens between Ron Paul backers, other Republicans
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A rift has opened between Ron Paul supporters and other Republican party members after a divisive power struggle Thursday that led one committee member to publicly resign and declare himself an independent.
Tim Ratigan said he walked out of a mass meeting of the Warren County party committee in protest of what he called on his Facebook page "unethical and immoral behavior" by a group intent on claiming the chairmanship and vice chairmanship posts.
"I wouldn't call them Republicans," Ratigan said in an interview Tuesday. "I would call them libertarians attempting to take over the Republican Party of Warren County."
As a result of the meeting, Ratigan said, he has declared himself an independent, although he will continue to support conservative candidates in future races. Ratigan is running for mayor of Front Royal, an officially non-partisan position.
Rattan's version of events at the party meeting was supported by two other party leaders, neither of whom spoke for attribution. At least two other committee members resigned, Ratigan and one of the other party, leaders said.
All three said Paul supporters have launched similar efforts in other parts of the state and nation and warned committee members in neighboring counties to expect to meet strong challenges by Paul supporters in the near future.
An ABC television news blog reported that a feud between Paul supporters and Republican leaders at a major caucus in Missouri on Saturday led the organizers to shut down the event.
Paul carried Warren County in the Virginia Republican presidential primary while losing statewide to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Ratigan and one of the other party leaders said around 100 people attended Thursday's meeting. The party's committee website described the purpose of the meeting as electing the top committee leadership and up to 290 delegates to the 6th Congressional District Convention scheduled for May 5 in Lexington. The convention will then elect three delegates and three alternates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.
Ratigan and the two other party leaders said they and the Paul supporters share the same basic beliefs in limited government. Ratigan said his objections to the Paul supporters stem from their efforts to overturn party rules and standard operating procedures.
"Don't get me wrong," Ratigan said. "Everybody has a right to be a Republican, but there's a right way to go about achieving your goals, and there's a wrong way."
The committee is trying to organize another meeting at which another attempt will be made to elect new officers. No date has been set.