UPDATED: May changes course, will run for Virginia Senate as independent
May's decision was spurred by the 33rd Senate Republican Legislative District Committee's decision late Monday to hold a mass meeting Dec. 16 to nominate its candidate, as opposed to a firehouse primary. That move is seen by some in Republican circles as a leg up for candidate John Whitbeck, chairman of the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee.
May, 76, said he finds the “closed process unacceptable.”
“Yesterday I announced my candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 33rd State Senate district. I did so in good faith,” May said today. “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.
“In an unannounced meeting, that was hidden from the press, the public and even other Republican Party committee members,” May continued, “five people made a decision which excluded all but a handful of voters from the selection process.”
May was defeated in June by tea party favorite Dave LaRock in a Republican primary for the House of Delegates 33rd District seat. Since then, there's been speculation May would run as an independent, first for his House of Delegates seat and then -- after Herring's recount-pending victory -- the Senate seat.
“I have been a Republican and a conservative all my life,” said May. “But today, I join Senator Byrd as an independent … 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.”
With May's departure from the Republican race, Whitbeck will square off against Herndon's Ron Meyer, a public relations professional, in the Dec. 16 nominating meeting.
Mark Sell, chairman of the 33rd Senate Republican Legislative District Committee, has not responded to phone calls or an email seeking comment.
Introducing May at his campaign's kick-off Monday -- when he still intended to run as a Republican -- veteran Del. Tom Rust (R-86th) said May always “does the right thing” in the General Assembly.
“Sometimes we'll be sitting there when we're getting ready to vote on something,” Rust said, “and [May] will say to me, in essence, 'If I vote 'A' that's the political right decision, but if I vote 'B,' that's the right decision for Virginia and it's the right decision for the district,' and Joe takes position 'B.' He takes the tough votes.”
Democrats have elected Leesburg attorney Jennifer Wexton as their nominee, and no date has been set for the special election.
This story has been updated from an earlier version.