Angered by the preelection theft of a voter list from their party headquarters, the Fairfax Republican Committee last night met to demand the resignation of Country GOP Chairman Joseph D. Ragan. Before they could voice their demands, Ragan daid he would quit.
"You can put your petitions away. Our fighting must stop," said Ragan, chairman for the last three years of Virginia's largest local Republican committee. "Because of my deep belief in the Republican Party and my unwillingness to see anyone hurt any more, I hereby sumbit my resignation..."
The resignation came after more than a month of bitter accusations and infighting among Fairfax Republicans that began with the disappearance of a voter list on the weekend before the Nov. 7 election.
"The saga of the missing list," as one Republican called it last night, went public shortly after the election, with Ragan denying any involvement in the affair. He later admitted some "participation" in the decision to take the list, and in a recent letter he said he had the list removed to promote "party harmony."
At last night's brief meeting before the 400 members of the Fairfax Re- publican Committee at Holmes Intermediate School. Ragan asked the audience to "put the Republican Party above our own petty thoughts as I have tried to do tonight."
Ragan left the school cafeteria immediately after his brief speech, refusing to talk to reporters.
"I think he went home," said a friend, Republican committee member Walter Warren. "He is pretty heartbroken. He is just pretty discouraged.
According to Robert Dively, a Republican lawyer who counted the signatures on a petition calling for Ragan's removal from the chairmanship, Ragan would have been dumped out of office if he had not resigned.
It takes two-thirds of the committee's 400 members to remove a chairman, according to state party rule. Dively said he had more than enough signatures last night.
The stolen list, which contained the names of about 7,000 Republican voters, was returned to Republican headquarters on the night before the election. In the meantime, phone-bank operations at the headquarters were slowed.The slowdown hurt the get-out-the-vote effort of Republican John W. Warner, now the state's junior senator-elect, according to his supporters.
In a letter dated Dec. 8, Ragan explained that he had had the list taken to make sure that certain "ticket splitters" on the list would not be called. Ticket splitters were those whom the party thought would have voted for Warner but against Republican congressional candidate John F. Herrity, or vice versa.
The GOP committee plans to choose Ragan's successor next month.