The city's Republican chairman agreed to resign late Monday night, just hours after a racist joke sent from his e-mail address surfaced.
David Bartholomew is not a racist and agreed to resign because the e-mail had become a distraction to the Nov. 2 election, said Gary Byler, the 2nd Congressional District GOP chairman, after meeting with Bartholomew.
The e-mail was dated March 15 and sent from the address that Bartholomew uses as party chairman. Bartholomew forwarded it without reading the contents when "he was first getting familiar with the Internet," Byler said.
The Virginian-Pilot obtained it from Democratic sources on Monday, and it was posted on the progressive blog Blue Virginia on Monday afternoon.
The e-mail sparked a flurry of responses.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Nye, the 2nd District Democrat, said in a statement Monday evening that "this type of racist behavior has no place in politics," and called on his Republican opponent to condemn the e-mail.
An hour later Scott Rigell did exactly that. Rigell, the owner of Freedom Automotive, called the e-mail "reprehensible," and said Bartholomew should step down from his leadership role.
The state's Legislative Black Caucus said in the statement that the "e-mail promotes ignorance and hostility towards racial and ethnic minorities and those who have been left unemployed by the recession."
Eight black Republican leaders sent an open letter requesting Bartholomew's resignation within 48 hours.
Bartholomew did not return calls for comment Monday.
The e-mail, which was sent to a handful of people, describes a man trying to get welfare benefits for his dog.
"My Dog is black, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is," the e-mail states.
Byler said Bartholomew was "horrified" by the e-mail.
"Events of the past few hours have been devastating to David Bartholomew. Anyone who knows chairman Bartholomew knows he's unbiased," Byler said.
Bartholomew took over leadership of the Virginia Beach Republican Party after Kenny Golden stepped down to run for the 2nd District congressional seat. He has helped run some local campaigns and some politicians credited him with outreach to the city's black and Filipino communit ies.
Ken Longo will serve as the interim chairman until the party holds new elections, Byler said.
Golden, who is running as an independent, did not call for Bartholomew's resignation and criticized Rigell as being too quick "to throw him under the bus."
"David would never do something like that on purpose," Golden said. "It was a racist e-mail.... It shouldn't have gone from anybody's e-mail to anybody's e-mail."
Some Republicans also questioned the timing of the release of the e-mail, coming out just two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
"It doesn't help when you're trying to build our party into a bigger, more inclusive party," said state Del. Ron Villanueva, a Virginia Beach Republican and a Filipino-American. "His actions hopefully won't affect our races in November."
Georgia Allen, the head of the city's NAACP, said the e-mail reflects the climate this election cycle when several politicians have made inflammatory statements.
"This is disappointing that you've got to continue to deal with foolishness like this," Allen said.
Pilot writer Bill Bartel contributed to this report.
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