The Greene County Republican Committee (GCRC) voted July 23 in a virtual meeting to deny an appeal regarding actions taken during the committee’s June 25 meeting, but the decision was not without controversy.
Matthew Hardin sent an appeal via email to the new GCRC Chairman Steve Kruskamp on July 4. At the heart of the dispute is the exact number of verified members in the GCRC.
GCRC member Aaron Evans kicked off the meeting with a point of order saying the appeal is not valid because Hardin, the county’s previous commonwealth’s attorney (now in private practice), was “not a Republican member under Article One” of the party plan. Evans said Hardin’s representation of clients to be on the ballot against the chosen Republican 5th District candidate Bob Good violates a signed pledge he made “as a 5th District delegate to support Bob Good in November for congress.”
Hardin would be disqualified from being a Republican for the next five years if he was in violation of Article One of the party plan.
“This opposition to Bob Good and the Republican Party immediately disqualified him for party membership and made the appeal improper,” Evans said. “I request this be considered prior to allowing this appeal to proceed forward.”
Kruskamp said Evans’ request and evidence had merit to discuss.
“It is a very serious allegation,” Kruskamp said. “What’s at risk here is Mr. Hardin’s membership in the party.”
Hardin was given three minutes to respond and Evans another three for rebuttal.
“To prevent any sort of conflict of a unilateral decision that may come from me as chair, I think it’s appropriate for the unit to take on the decision with a vote,” Kruskamp said.
“I think there are two separate issues here,” Hardin said. “The first is my support for Bob Good. I think Bob Good knows that I support Bob Good. I publicly support Bob Good tonight.
“I’m also an attorney and I represent clients; it’s what I do,” Hardin continued. “I think there’s a difference between my day job and what I do upholding the constitution and then as an individual I, of course, support all our Republican candidates because that’s who I am and what I have always done.”
There were 26 other signatures from registered voters in Greene County on the appeal.
“I just transmitted that document. There are numerous signatures, in fact more than are required, on that document,” he said. “So, if you were to kick my signature off, it doesn’t actually stop the underlying appeal.”
Evans said Hardin did not deny representing the different parties in court, but could have decided not to take them on as clients.
Aaron Moyer, previous secretary of the GCRC, said he agreed with Hardin’s statements.
“Even if he were deemed a nonmember of the Republican Party, that doesn’t have anything to do with the properness of this appeal because he’s just one of 27 people who signed up. I think it’s immaterial at this point,” Moyer said.
GCRC members voted but did not have the two-third majority of the 29 members present to say Hardin’s actions remove him from membership in the GCRC. Eighteen voted yes, seven voted no and four abstained.
Hardin said after the meeting that he’s always supported the Republican nominees.
“I voted for Bob Good at the convention, I’ve donated to his campaign and I’ve hosted events for him,” Hardin said. “As a lawyer, I have to stand up for my clients’ constitutional rights. That’s never been against the rules of the Republican Party and it’s a shame some folks would try to use that against me.”
GCRC member Steve Hollis said he thought the membership needed to unite or it’d tear the group apart.
Every two years in the GCRC at a mass meeting, the organization is dissolved and members must re-file. This year’s mass meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 and the state party agreed all who had pre-filed by March 2 would be considered members in good standing. However, the membership application does not preclude people from filing at the mass meeting and Kruskamp said many turned in their applications directly to him by the March 16 date.
Hardin said the appeal lies with the June 25 meeting.
“Essentially, this is just about the June 25 Zoom meeting of this committee and it’s our position that there was a process to pre-file when the mass meeting was canceled due to COVID. That process was not followed. There was no process to deposit ballots or pre-file forms anywhere else,” Hardin said. “Although we love to have members in the committee, we have to follow the rules and the rules were not followed. The roll that was called had at least 17 individuals who never pre-filed nor were voted into the committee at a proper meeting. That got compounded when those 17 then voted on other actions including admitting 10 more.”
Kruskamp said there was no cancellation clause in the mass meeting call which “disenfranchised” people from registering.
He showed an email chain between executive committee members, including Hardin, where Hardin said while not ideal, accepting those applications until the mass meeting date would seem correct.
Kruskamp showed an email from the Republican Party of Virginia’s counsel saying those who submitted applications by the March 16 mass meeting date were “effectively elected by the cancellation” of the meeting.
Mallory Lamb, the new secretary of the GCRC, said she’s “disgusted” with how some people have acted recently.
“Instead of all of us coming together for the bigger picture and supporting our candidates so they can win the election you have us running around taking precious time to respond to numerous appeals,” she said.
The membership voted against the appeal, 23 to 7, with one abstaining.
“Okay, so the appeal does not pass,” Kruskamp said. “Hopefully this puts this to bed. I hope that now we can move forward. We have work in front of us.”
Hardin said he plans to move the appeal up to the 5th District and if it’s denied there, the appeal can go to the state level if they choose.