- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

RICHMOND — House Republicans yesterday rejected the nomination of one of their former colleagues to the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary — a rare move seen by most as political retribution.

With no debate, the House voted 51-45 to reject former Gov. Mark Warner’s nomination of former Delegate James Hardy Dillard II, a William & Mary graduate. The Fairfax County Republican, who was chairman of the House Education Committee, retired last year from the seat he held for three decades.

Earlier yesterday, the Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment.

Mr. Dillard’s was the only nomination to be rejected among multiple appointments.

Some view the vote as the first hard stand taken by the Republican caucus this session, and one that sets up a showdown over some of the Cabinet nominations of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat.

Five Republicans bucked the caucus and voted for Mr. Dillard. All but one Democrat — Johnny S. Joannou, of Portsmouth — voted in favor of him. Mr. Joannou and three Republicans abstained from the vote.

Many Republicans long thought that Mr. Dillard, a pro-choice legislator who consistently voted for higher taxes, had left their party.

Last year, Mr. Dillard campaigned for Democrat Dave W. Marsden, instead of Republican Michael J. Golden. Mr. Marsden, a former Republican who once was Mr. Dillard’s aide, won the election.

Mr. Dillard also donated $500 to the Republican who challenged incumbent Delegate Frank D. Hargrove Sr., of Hanover, in the primary. Mr. Hargrove won the election.

Mr. Dillard voted in favor of a $1.38 billion tax increase in 2004.

Some of the new and more conservative members of the caucus felt the strongest about rejecting Mr. Dillard, 72.

They had to coerce the senior leadership to support the vote and later cheered the decision as a show of backbone from a caucus that has shied away from such polarizing votes in the past.

“We finally had the guts to do something,” said one Republican delegate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If we don’t fight the small battles, there is no way we can win the war.”

The delegate said it was important for the caucus to show its mettle in anticipation for a fight over Mr. Kaine’s appointment of Daniel LeBlanc, a former AFL-CIO leader, and the governor’s proposed tax increases.

“It was an opportunity for us to show ourselves and everyone else that we’re willing to stand our ground,” the delegate said.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith said most House Republicans think that Mr. Dillard and Mr. Warner made a deal, exchanging the appointment for support of Mr. Marsden.

“Most people understand that you can’t reward folks who betray their party or their position,” the Salem Republican said.

Delegate Bill Janis, Goochland Republican, said, “When I vote to confirm an appointment, I do it based on merit and not as payback for a political favor.”

The Republicans who voted for Mr. Dillard also supported the 2004 tax increase in defiance of their party.

Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Mr. Warner, called the vote disappointing. She also balked at accusations that the former governor had appointed Mr. Dillard as a political favor.

“That’s not how Governor Warner did any appointments,” she said. “Jim Dillard has been a leader on education for three decades in Virginia and wanted to take that knowledge base into a new post of public service.”

Mr. Marsden, Fairfax Democrat, said he was confident that Mr. Dillard did not make a deal with Mr. Warner.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian J. Moran of Alexandria said Mr. Dillard was one of the most respectable lawmakers and did not deserve such treatment. “It clearly had the feel of political retribution,” he said.

Mr. Griffith disagreed: “When somebody has served with you and then betrays that trust, it’s one thing to be silent, but it’s another thing to aggressively campaign.”

Confirmation of gubernatorial appointees usually is routine, but Mr. Dillard’s rejection is not unprecedented.

In 2002, the Senate refused to confirm 27 of the appointees of former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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