County GOP chairman resigning due to war opposition

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- An opponent of war with Iraq stepped down Monday as a county Republican chairman, saying he cannot support "the belligerent and reckless language coming from the White House."

Jack Walters of Columbia had faced an ouster vote Tuesday night as chair of the Boone County Republican Committee because of his public anti-war statements.

While Walters said he believed he could have survived a removal vote, "then where would that leave us, because I still oppose this impending war.

"If you have to support a war you consider to be unjust to be considered a good Republican, then you can count me out as the Republican chairman," Walters said.

He informed party members of his resignation plans in a weekend e-mail, saying it was effective at noon Monday. Shortly after noon, Walters said he would remain on the committee as a member, "so I can still speak out about issues in our meetings." His term on the committee runs through August 2004.

Walters has asserted in public statements that the White House wants to invade Iraq to gain control of oil.

Critics said Walters shouldn't have publicly criticized the president of his political party, and in doing so had undermined his own effectiveness and caused disunity.

"It's about leadership, and he has done the right thing by resigning," said Verna Harris-Laboy, one of seven committee members who recently signed a petition that bypassed Walters in setting Tuesday night's special committee meeting.

Petition signers said they just wanted to get together to fill vacancies in the 56-member committee, which currently only has members for about half of its seats. The chairman and other officers are elected from among the membership. Walters won the chairmanship on a narrow vote last August.

Reason behind meeting

Walters said the real reason for the special meeting was to approve a slate of new committee members who would vote for his ouster. It would take a two-thirds vote of the committee to remove the chairman.

Walters previously had said he wouldn't resign, and that any ouster vote would be preceded by a debate about the war if he was chairing the meeting.

But in his e-mail, Walters wrote: "I do not wish to be Chairman when this tragedy starts. I am not resigning to placate those who have demanded same. I do not fear them in the least. I was quite willing to stand and face an ouster vote. I am resigning because I cannot support the Republican position on this war."

He also wrote of "the sobering realization that by remaining Boone County Republican Chairman, I would be giving tacit approval to this imminent war, and tacit approval to the belligerent and reckless language coming from the White House. The safety and integrity of our country outweighs politics."

Russ Duker, one of the nominees to fill a committee vacancy, said Walters' resignation "means we can get back to business and not have this public distraction from supporting the president."

Scott Baker, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party, said the state party considered the dispute a local matter.

"The committee and Boone County Republicans in general needed to determine if he spoke for them," Baker said. "It sounds like he did not and has not, so if his resignation will allow the committee to get past this and focus on their usual tasks, then it's probably a good thing."

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