By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County Republicans appear headed for a showdown over party leadership at a regular committee meeting tonight.
The meeting is coming two days after a group challenging the existing leaders elected their own slate of leaders. Now no one is sure who is in charge of the party, and some have raised the possibility that party officials at the congressional district or state level will have to decide the issue.
Mike McHugh says he should be considered the officially chosen chairman and Dave Henderson should be out after McHugh was elected to the post at what the party calls a mass meeting Tuesday. McHugh estimated 35 or 40 people attended the meeting, most of them his supporters.
But other party members do not consider the meeting nor its results to be valid and binding.
Henderson said Wednesday he remains the committee chairman. Vice chairman Dominic Ripici dismissed the Tuesday meeting as "a publicity stunt."
"I was not there, nor were any of our members," Ripici said of those supporting the existing party leaders. "I didn't want to legitimize it in any way."
McHugh, and Dennis Fusaro, who chaired the Tuesday meeting, insist it was a legitimate reconvening of an earlier mass meeting held to elect party leaders. That meeting ended inconclusively with McHugh's side accusing the Henderson and Ripici side of imposing invalid restrictions on floor nominations.
Ripici insisted that the earlier mass meeting "was appropriately adjourned, and there was no further business to discuss."
McHugh argues that the mass meeting's business was incomplete and therefore still eligible to be reconvened.
"We will appeal to the local committee to accept the results of the mass meeting," McHugh said, adding that he expected the appeal will be rejected tonight.
"I'm very convinced there will be a majority on that committee that will try to elect their own party chairman," Fusaro said of tonight's meeting. "Then the fight is on, for lack of a better word. That will be the issue and debate.
McHugh said he will appeal an unfavorable outcome to party officials of the 6th congressional district and, if necessary, to the state party.
"The state central committee is going to have to choose between the majority who elected me, or the minority," McHugh said.
On another issue, McHugh distanced himself from comments in which he quoted Henderson as saying "pray I don't put a bullet in McHugh's head" during a party meeting in late March. In an e-mail to The Northern Virginia Daily on March 31, McHugh said "time is running out before I seek a restraining order" against Henderson.
Henderson denied Wednesday making any threatening remarks to McHugh and refused to comment further. McHugh said later in the day that Henderson "had made things right" with him since he sent the e-mail.
He also said he did not want to talk to the media about the incident and was no longer thinking about trying to obtain a restraining order.