Virginia Republicans voted overwhelmingly Saturday to oust party Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick in an effort to stanch the bleeding of a bitter internal feud that some feared could set back the gubernatorial campaign of former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia removed the defiant Mr. Frederick on a 57-18 vote.
The central committee had called for Mr. Frederick’s resignation in a letter March 4, announcing Saturday’s planned vote for his removal if he did not resign within 30 days. Mr. Frederick has held his position since May, and the committee sought his resignation in January.
Mr. Frederick, a Prince William County delegate, refused to go down without a fight and hired lawyers Bill Stanley and A.J. Dudley for the Saturday showdown.
“You’re probably going to see an invigoration of the grass roots,” Frederick supporter Tony Arjona said when asked how party members would respond to the vote. Mr. Frederick said he represented grass-roots conservatives against the party establishment.
Mike Thomas, a leader of the movement to oust Mr. Frederick, takes over as interim party chairman, a role he has assumed three times since 2003.
Critics of Mr. Frederick gathered outside the committee meeting faulted him for “not effectively” working with the John McCain presidential campaign last year, filing unauthorized expenses, taking a “pleasure trip to Israel” and generally “going against the party plan.”
“What happened to Mr. Frederick sadly is the natural conclusion of the quality of his leadership,” said Michael Lowe, a 1st Congressional District representative on the central committee.
“I feel the course I set for our party is the right one, and whether I or someone else steps in to complete the tasks that we began last year when I became chairman, that remains to be seen,” Mr. Frederick said after the vote.
Gary Byler, a committee member who voted in favor of Mr. Frederick, said he hopes that Mr. Frederick does not run for the position again in May.
He cited the importance of November’s gubernatorial election and the need for party unity.
“I call on former Chairman Frederick to help heal those wounds,” said Mr. Byler, adding that the party needs to renew its appeal to the moderate voters of Northern Virginia.
Complaints against Mr. Frederick include low fundraising numbers, three congressional seats going to Democrats in November and the use of a technology firm - in which he is said to have personal interest - to track party funds.
The showdown over Mr. Frederick comes seven months before a pivotal, nationally watched gubernatorial election in which the party hopes to reverse recent losses.
After the March letter, Mr. McDonnell said, “It is clear to me, after hearing from Republican leaders across the state, that as we move forward with our campaign, as well as the other statewide and House of Delegates races, it would be helpful for the Republican Party of Virginia to have more effective leadership in this pivotal year.
“I look forward to continuing to run an inclusive, grass-roots campaign that is reaching voters all over Virginia with our good-government, conservative message of job creation, opportunity and results for all Virginians,” he said.
Mr. Frederick has served in the House of Delegates since 2004 and recently announced that he would not pursue re-election. He supports his wife, Amy Frederick, to be his successor in the upcoming November election and set up a Web site for supporters.