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Newman voices support for Putney over Republican nominee

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By John Barnhart

    Republicans have not run a candidate against Delegate Lacey Putney since the days when Putney was a Democrat, back in the 1960s. Putney, an independent, has caucused with the Republicans in the House of Delegates for many years.

    So, why are they running a candidate against him now? The process allowed it, Republican leaders state.
    And it’s led State Senator Steve Newman to resign from the Republican Committee in Bedford County, at least temporarily.        Other       local Republican leaders are also voicing support for Putney over the Republican nominee, Jerry Johnson.
    “I’m a supporter of Lacey Putney,” said Botetourt County Republican Chairman Jim Crosby.
    Crosby said that Johnson ended up being nominated to run against Putney because he filed to run in a Republican mass meeting in Botetourt County. Any registered voter can do this and they don’t necessarily have to be Republicans.
    “He just happened to bring enough people and he won,” said Crosby.
    “You can have people who come in, take over a mass meeting and, bingo, you have somebody who doesn’t even agree with your principles,” Crosby went on to say. And, because Virginia does not have voter registration by party, there is nothing that Republicans can do about it.    
    Crosby said that the only reason why Johnson is running is that he thinks that getting elected to the House of Delegates will give him a pulpit to push for a change to the United States Constitution.
    “He doesn’t have any other issues,” Crosby commented.
    According to Crosby, Johnson has never been involved with the Republican Party in any way.
    “He hasn’t ever joined the Republican Party and he is running as a Republican,” Crosby commented. “Something is wrong with a system that allows that to happen.”
    According to Crosby, the people Johnson brought with him to the mass meeting had been members of the Constitution Party a few years ago. Johnson won the nomination by a vote of 26-18.   The meeting was held in the Lord Botetourt High School cafeteria the night of Aug. 22.
    Crosby said that, for years, nobody has wanted to run against Putney. He said that Putney has a strong conservative voting record and that his longevity in office makes him a better legislator.
    “This is certainly an unusual situation and awkward for sure,” said Nate Boyer, chairman of the Bedford County Republican Party.
    Boyer noted that Putney has helped Republican candidates and caucused with the Republican Party for years.
    “He’s had a long and supportive relationship with the Republican Party,” Boyer said.
    Boyer said that the state party requires local party units to hold a nominating process. It also bars Republicans from supporting a candidate who runs against a Republican candidate.
    He said that you don’t have to be a Republican to vote in a Republican mass meeting because Virginia does not have registration by party. Johnson, he said, met the requirements for being nominated.
    Last week, Senator Steve Newman sent Boyer a letter resigning from the Bedford County Republican Committee. In the letter, Newman said that he plans to rejoin the Bedford County Republican Committee after the Nov. 8 election.
    Senator Newman’s reasoning: He is supporting Putney for reelection.
    “It is out of respect for the Bedford County Republican Party and in particular the Virginia Republican Party Plan that I feel compelled to present my resignation,” Newman wrote. “According to the plan if a member of the local committee supports or endorses a candidate other than the Republican nominee, he or she must be removed from the committee at the next meeting. My decision would be a clear violation of this rule and I would rather take full responsibility for this action by preemptively penning my resignation. Further, I do not want to put the committee in a position of being required to remove me from the local party by a vote which could be difficult for many of my friends on the committee. I would rather do the right thing and resign my membership out of an understanding and respect for the rule.”
     Newman resigned because he isn’t supporting Johnson.
    “In particular I want to be clear that I plan to proudly and unabashedly support, endorse and work endlessly for the reelection of my friend and independent candidate Delegate Lacey Putney,” Newman wrote in his letter.
    Newman stated that his decision is a matter of principle.
    “Throughout the history of our nation patriots have placed principle over party; my support for Mr. Putney in this election continues that tradition. I believe that when principles and party are in conflict we should always choose principle,” he wrote.