A statement from the Republican National Committee on Friday, Feb. 4, calling the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 last year “legitimate political discourse,” prompted San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford to quit the party.
At Friday’s RNC winter meeting in Salt Lake City, a committee approved a resolution censure Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, for criticizing former President Donald Trump and for serving on the United States House Select Committee investigating the attack on the January 6 against the United States Capitol.
“Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political speech,” the resolution reads in part, “and they both use their past professed political affiliation to hide the Democrats’ abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes. .”
“‘Legitimate political discourse’ does not describe what I saw on January 6”, Rutherford, 53, wrote on Twitter Friday. “I’ve been @gop since the day I turned 18, but I’m away today. I love my country and my freedom too much to put up with any of the mainstream party nonsense.
On Friday, Rutherford said it was not a sudden decision.
“It’s something I’ve been moving towards for some time as I’ve seen the party move away from the values that made me a member of this party,” she said.
“I came to the late 80s when it was about freedom and prosperity and giving people ‘a helping hand, not a helping hand’, and now it’s about…”. She sighed. “It’s about catchphrases and ‘owning’ people. There’s a very mean tone and tension to it that doesn’t represent any of those positive values” that initially attracted her to the party.
According to the RNC, “legitimate political speech” does not refer to violence on Capitol Hill.
“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have crossed a line,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a written statement released after the resolution passed. “They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political speech that had nothing to do with violence on Capitol Hill. This is why the members of the Republican National Committee and I overwhelmingly support this resolution.
McDaniel’s uncle, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, condemned the resolution before it passed.
“Shame falls on a party that would censor people of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” Romney wrote on Twitter. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for pursuing the truth, even though it comes at a high personal cost.”
Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the nine-person select committee investigating the US Capitol breach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected Trump-aligned Republican candidates proposed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyarguing that they intentionally disrupted the process, and instead named Cheney and Kinzinger as Trump doubters.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, called Rutherford leaving the GOP a “big deal.” noting on Twitter that she is on a board of directors representing a county of over 2 million people. Pitney himself left the GOP in 2016, as he recounted in a USA Today op-ed in 2017 “I was a Republican until Donald Trump hijacked my party.”
“Legitimate political discourse” does not describe what I saw on January 6th. I was @gop since the day I turned 18, but I walked out today. I love my country and my freedom too much to put up with any of the main party nonsense.
— Janice Rutherford (@JanRutherfordCA) February 4, 2022
Rutherford, first elected in 2010, represents the Second district, which includes Rancho Cucamonga, most of Upland and Fontana, and the communities of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, and Running Springs. His neighborhood was remodeled in December, as part of the once-a-decade redistricting, losing the right-wing mountain communities in the next election.
“I suspect a lot of political expediency on his part,” said San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee voting member John Berry. “I’m personally sorry to hear that, because I really like her as a person. … Shame on her. She’s going to jump ship at the party that helped her get to where she arrived.
But term limits are preventing Rutherford from seeking re-election to the oversight board this year. And on Friday, she said she would no longer run for office, citing both her desire to be close to her family as a lawmaker and because she and the Republican Party have taken different paths.
“It’s also team sports and I haven’t felt like I’m part of the Republican team for a while now,” she said. “Which is good: the party should have people who agree with its point of view and perspective, and I don’t do that anymore.”
According to Marcia Godwin, professor of political administration at the University of La Verne, the RNC’s statement makes it difficult for non-Trump Republicans to claim that the Jan. 6 attack and the more extreme elements of Trumpism are aberrations to the within their party. This is especially difficult for more traditional, business-minded Republicans such as Rutherford in nonpartisan offices, Godwin said.
“Overseer Rutherford has long had a reputation as a relatively moderate principled Republican,” Godwin added. “She was first elected to the supervisory board in 2010 by defeating a member of her own party, Paul Biane, in the midst of a corruption investigation.”
Rutherford and Pitney aren’t the only ones switching political affiliations.
the The California GOP has been losing members for years. According to the office of the California Secretary of State, as of August 31, 2021, only 24.02% of voters in the state are registered as Republicans, narrowly edging out “no party preference,” which claims 23.15% of registered voters. In contrast, 46.54% of California voters are registered Democrats.
In Rutherford’s Second District, the political divide is narrower — 30.68% of voters are Registered Republicanscompared to 41% who are registered as Democrats.