A young Republican activist from Northern Virginia who was seen as a potential rising star quit the party Tuesday, citing President Trump's "appalling comments" about Haitian immigrants and what he called a nativist streak in his home state.
Kyle McDaniel, 28, served on the party's State Central Committee for two years and has worked as a top aide for Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who said he had hoped McDaniel would eventually run for public office.
But McDaniel said he harbored increasing reservations over where the party has been heading. On Tuesday, he sent a letter of resignation to State Party Chairman John Whitbeck that described events he "could no longer stomach," including Trump's reported reference last week to Haiti as a "shithole" country and the defense by some party leaders of this summer's rally by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.
McDaniel also cited an unsuccessful effort by himself and other younger Republicans to remove or formally censure a member of the state party's 11th Congressional District Committee in Northern Virginia, who, among other things, called Islam "a death cult created by Satan."
"I have, on more occasions than I care to recall, been forced to 'bite my tongue' when in conversation with other party leaders about the issues of the day," wrote McDaniel, who has gone to Haiti as a relief worker with his church and said he and his wife, Katie, have considered adopting a Haitian child. "I cannot in good faith continue to do that."
Although McDaniel is not a marquee name in the state party's leadership, the news of his departure touched a nerve among some officials, who said they worry that Trump is causing deep fissures in the party, especially among younger Republicans. In Northern Virginia in particular, anti-Trump sentiments run high, helping to fuel a wave of Democratic victories in November.
"We can't even count or imagine how many people would be part of our ranks who just take a look at what's going on and say 'No thanks', " said Stephen Spiker, 32, another member of the 11th Congressional District Committee. "For the younger demographic, it's a bridge they can't cross."
Whitbeck said McDaniel "knows full well that the Republican Party of Virginia, and I as chairman, have worked tirelessly to expand the Party into new communities."
"We wish Mr. McDaniel the best in his future endeavors but he owes every member of his party an apology for repeating the Democrat talking points that Republicans are a bunch of racists," Whitbeck said in a statement.
Herrity said he hoped McDaniel will someday return to the Republican fold. "I still think he will run for office one day," he said. "I would hazard to predict he'll do it as a Republican."
McDaniel, who works as a real estate agent in Alexandria, said that isn't likely.
"I'm totally out," he said. "I'll support candidates I agree with, but as far as any party affiliation, I'm out. I'm independent."