Culpeper GOP head facing recall
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
The Culpeper Republican Committee, for more than a decade the most powerful political arm in the county, will meet Thursday in an attempt to force a recall election for Chairman Steve Nixon.
Nixon, elected to a second term at the GOP’s mass meeting in late April, represents the moderate wing of the Culpeper party. He is being challenged by the group’s more conservative element, which has accused the chairman of allowing known Democrats to vote at that mass meeting.
On June 28, the conservatives presented Nixon with a petition signed by about 40 members, or two-thirds, of the Culpeper County Republican Committee. The petition did not ask the chairman to step down, but it did inform him that he was subject to a recall vote.
The petitioners also contend that Nixon should face re-election because he did not win by a large enough margin. Nixon defeated Al Aitken by just three votes in an election in which 523 people participated.
Nixon adamantly defends his victory and his handling of the mass meeting.
“They are saying that I let known Democrats like [former state legislator] Butch Davies and [businessman] Joe Daniel vote in that election. But the call, which was approved twice by the committee and printed in the newspaper, says that any registered Culpeper County voter was eligible to participate,” the chairman said. “The call was read at the meeting, and nobody spoke up.”
The petitioners assert, however, that Nixon should not have allowed anyone but known Republicans to vote unless they signed a pledge to support GOP candidates in the November general election.
“I had no right to do that,” said Nixon. “There has been a huge outcry against [such action] statewide.”
The April mass meeting was the largest in Culpeper GOP history, drawing voters in great part because of interest in the contest between Megan Frederick and Paul Walther to be the party’s nominee for commonwealth’s attorney. Both candidates brought crowds of followers.
Walther, who won the nomination by 15 votes, said his nomination has already been certified, and the bid to recall Nixon will not affect his candidacy. Nixon said the petitioners are not challenging Walther’s nomination.
The controversy has become so intense that the committee’s June meeting was called “a battleground” by one member. Some people got up and left during the debate.
Several prominent moderate Republicans have threatened to leave the party because of the continuing controversy.
Nixon refuses to back down.
“This is the ultraconservative element of the group, the tea party people,” he said. “If I lose the recall election, I will appeal it to the 7th District Committee.”
On the issue of non-Republicans voting at the April mass meeting, Nixon said it was great for the party.
“Those people will vote for their candidate in November, and that will give us a big boost,” he said. “When you look at all those people who showed up at the GOP meeting, it was like we’ve died and gone to heaven.”
Aitken, who did not return phone calls Wednesday, is reported to have indicated at the June meeting that he would oppose Nixon again if a second election is held.
Thursday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Reformation Lutheran Church assembly hall on South Main Street.