The Fairfax County Republican Committee chairman has charged there is a "cancer of friction" in the party and that a "factious clique" is plotting to unseat him.
The accusations by Chairman Benton K. Partin, part of the party's conservative wing, were contained in the Fairfax Republican Committee's April newsletter and have caused a flurry among party members. Some fear it may fuel internal conflicts during this volatile election year.
Others are furious that Partin put in print what has been frequently discussed in private but rarely acknowledged in public: that there is a serious split in the county Republican Party.
"I don't know what Ben is talking about," said Joan Jacobs, who ran against Partin for the chairmanship last year and is head of the 400-member Lincoln Club, a group of moderate Republicans in Northern Virginia. "I thought we were on the way to healing our wounds and becoming a unified party. But the letter has the overtones of divisiveness."
County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, Fairfax's top elected Republican, and most conservatives declined to comment yesterday, saying that Partin was free to speak for himself.
Partin, a retired Air Force general, could not be reached for comment. In the newsletter, he wrote that the "petty animosity of the factious clique" toward him and some other Republicans "is totally destructive and must stop."
Some members of the party have never accepted him as their leader, Partin said, and their "modus operandi is 'rule or destroy' . . . . Some in the clique sat on their hands in the 1982 election hoping for the failure of the current leadership, even at the expense of lost elections.
"I have been the target of harassing phone calls; even very threatening phone calls," said Partin. "The petty, krass sic incivility of people refusing to speak or acknowledge one's presence is being practiced against some outstanding party workers."
Partin accused the "clique" of boycotting an awards banquet and of holding its own meeting to plan a strategy for gaining control of the party in 1984. Partin said that the "cancer of friction within the party has been much reduced in magnitude, but not necessarily in intensity . . . . "
It was generally assumed that the "clique" to which Partin was referring was the Lincoln Club. "The gentleman is definitely paranoid," said Constance Bedell, chairman of the club's membership committee.
Bedell, who is campaign manager for Supervisor Marie B. Travesky, Republican of Springfield, said that while there are moderate and conservative factions in the party, they are trying to work together.
Jacobs said that the group did hold one of its monthly meetings the same night that the Republican County awards banquet was held, but that it was not an attempt to boycott anything.