Former Warren County GOP vice chairman responds to ex board member's comments
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A member of a group of Republicans who want to replace party officers with their own candidates fired back Wednesday at one prominent party member who has called the group "immoral and unethical."
Mike McHugh, a former vice chairman of the Warren County Republican Party Committee, accused Tim Ratigan of dividing the party by walking out in protest at last week's party meeting and declaring himself an independent.
"It's typical media hound Ratigan being a sore loser," McHugh said.
McHugh and Ratigan are clashing over which faction violated party rules for selecting officers at the meeting.
McHugh said his group is divided roughly into three smaller groups that he described as supporters of Ron Paul, history-focused constitutional conservatives such as himself and Catholic anti-abortion activists.
McHugh said his wish for new party leadership stems from several votes cast by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke. McHugh said Goodlatte has supported money for President Obama's health care reform bill, funding for Planned Parenthood and suspending the writ of habeas corpus by which courts respond to a petition from a prison inmate and determine whether he is being lawfully held behind bars.
Chris Leavitt, Goodlatte's campaign manager, strongly disputed McHugh's comments.
"Bob Goodlatte has fought Obamacare from day one and voted to repeal and defund it many times," Leavitt wrote in an email message. "He has a completely pro-life voting record and has voted to defund Planned Parenthood many times."
Leavitt added that Goodlatte "voted against the conference report to the National Defense Authorization Act when promised protections of the civil liberties of U.S. citizens were not included."
McHugh, who said he served as party vice chairman in 2008, insisted that his faction followed party rules in trying to win control of the party chairmanship and vice chairmanship.
"It's Ratigan's fault," McHugh said. "He and his side broke the bylaws of the Warren County Republican Committee."
He added: "We had a fractious meeting, but it was brought on by themselves, and they shot themselves in the foot."
One goal in trying to change the party chairman is to influence decisions made by the party at the congressional district level, McHugh said. Party chairmen have the ability to cast votes that affect rules governing how candidates run for Congress in the Republican Party. In Goodlatte's case, McHugh said, he would like to make it easier for someone to challenge the incumbent in the Republican primary.
McHugh denied that his side engaged in heavy handed tactics while debating their opponents at the meeting.
"We didn't shout anybody down, we didn't interrupt anybody," he said. "We let them speak."
McHugh said his group has turned to the Republican Party of Virginia for help in resolving the stalemate. Last week's meeting ended with no chairman or vice chairman being chosen, he said. The next step has been filing paperwork with the state party organization asking it to call a meeting at which a chairman and vice chairman will be chosen, he said.
"We're asking them to authorize a reconvened meeting to finish the business of the meeting so that a majority is not disenfranchised," McHugh said.
A telephone call to state Republican Party headquarters was not returned.