State Del. Joe T. May announced Tuesday that he will break from the Republican Party and run as an Independent candidate in the race to fill the potential vacancy of Virginia’s 33rd Senate district seat.

May’s statement came in response to the 33rd Senate Republican Legislative District Committee, which called Monday for a Dec. 16 mass meeting to select the GOP nominee to potentially replace state Sen. Mark R. Herring (D). The Democrat, last week, was declared the winner of the Virginia attorney general election by a margin of 165 votes. A recount is expected to be completed this month.

May, a veteran lawmaker who had announced Monday that he would compete for the Republican nomination, decried the process by which the Dec. 16 meeting was called.

May said it was “unacceptable” that only a handful of Republican committee members met privately Monday evening to determine the date, location and requirements of the “mass meeting” – including a provision that no one who has voted in a Democratic primary since March 1, 2004 be allowed to cast a vote.

“Late last night, just hours after I had announced my intention to run in a firehouse primary, that good faith was rewarded by an attempt to deprive the voters of the 33rd district the opportunity to vote in a fair and open process,” May said in a statement Tuesday. “In the last 24 hours, I have been contacted by a very large number of people who have expressed their outrage over what has happened. And those people are Republicans. Virginia and the Republican Party deserve better.”

In response to the call for the Dec. 16 meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Sterling — a time and location that May’s staff members said would make it difficult for Virginians in other areas to attend – May said he would follow in the footsteps of his “great friend and role model, the late Sen. Harry Byrd,” and run instead as an Independent.

“I have been a Republican and a conservative all my life. But today, I join Sen. Byrd as an independent and I am a candidate for the state senate of Virginia,” May said. “I ask for the support of every Virginian in the 33rd district – Republican, Independent and Democrat alike. We must ensure every voter has the opportunity to participate and to be heard. We must reject Washington style politics in our great Commonwealth.”

Mark Sell, chairman of the 33rd Senate Republican Legislative District Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding May’s announcement.