Seven high-ranking Fairfax County Republican officials accused the county's conservative GOP chairman, Benton K. Partin, yesterday of unfairly and illegally manipulating county convention rules in an effort to retain control of the party.
"The only way he can win this thing is through shenanigans," Republican state Del. Vincent F. Callahan of McLean said at a news conference.
Partin, who will exercise substantial control over Saturday's county GOP convention as the party's leader, denied the charges.
"There is no parliamentary maneuvering and manipulation," he said. "I've done everything I can to make the convention as expedited as possible."
More than 3,000 Fairfax Republicans are expected Saturday at Lake Braddock Secondary School for a convention that could be one of the largest and most contentious local Virginia political gatherings in recent years.
Partin, a retired Air Force general, is seeking a third two-year term as chairman of the Fairfax GOP. He faces opposition from most of the county's elected officials, whom he has criticized frequently. The officials, who have accused Partin of being a political ideologue, recruited former county sheriff James D. Swinson to run against him.
The elected officials, including state legislators, county supervisors, the county sheriff and clerk of the court, said that Partin has excluded them from an active role in the party.
After a party canvass last month to select delegates to the convention, Swinson claimed victory and called on Partin to resign. Partin acknowledged the former sheriff received more votes, but declined to resign.
Swinson's strategists said that Partin could nullify the sheriff's delegate lead through parliamentary twists and partisan rulings at the convention.
They cited indications from Partin that he plans to replace his absent delegates with alternates committed to his slate, rather than with the alternates who received the greatest number of votes at last month's canvass. That rule would minimize the number of votes cast by Swinson alternates.
"They're afraid they may lose this thing and they're grasping at straws," said Partin, who said Swinson's backers "are trying to put a screwy interpretation [on the rules] that will really give them a leg up."
Swinson's backers also charged that Partin plans to drag out the convention for hours, in the hope that Swinson delegates will leave. They added that Partin's choice of convention hall -- the gymnasium at Lake Braddock -- lacks sufficient parking and seating and will discourage Swinson delegates from attending.
Partin said there would be ample parking, and countercharged that it is Swinson's forces who plan to drag out the convention.
Dranesville Supervisor Nancy K. Falck said that "visitors" in Partin's camp could be used during voice votes to distort the results.
Falck said that if Swinson loses, some elected GOP officials may ask a court to overturn the results if Partin abuses parliamentary procedures to his own advantage.
M. Wayne Huggins, who replaced Swinson as sheriff and is another staunch Swinson supporter, said he plans to bring a bullhorn to the convention floor to make sure he is recognized on critical votes and parliamentary challenges. Partin said he may have the sergeant-at-arms confiscate the bullhorn.
In addition to Huggins, Falck and Callahan, Swinson's supporters at the news conference yesterday were state Sen. John W. Russell of Fairfax City, Dels. Robert T. Andrews of McLean and Stephen E. Gordy of Fairfax City and Clerk of the Court Warren E. Barry.