Wednesday letter has request for Buckingham, state Republicans

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2023

DILLWYN – The former interim registrar for Buckingham County says he was angry over just being fired when he made recent remarks about Democrats to a reporter. The head of the Virginia Democratic Party meanwhile is calling on all Republican groups, local and state, to denounce the comments, saying things like this “incites violence from extreme factions of the far-right.” 

Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker sent a letter to Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Virginia Republican Party Chair Rich Anderson on Wednesday, asking both them and the Republican Party as a whole to “denounce this hateful rhetoric, to disavow Mr. Gutierrez’s statement, or to distance the Republican Party from his message.” 

Luis Gutierrez served as interim registrar for Buckingham County over a 19-day period, before being let go on Tuesday, May 9 by a 2-0 vote of the county’s electoral board. After that vote, he went outside and did an interview with the Virginia Mercury media outlet, where he called Democrats evil. 

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See, the Democrats somehow, they have selective hearing, selective reading, selective seeing,” Gutierrez told the Mercury reporter Graham Moomaw, speaking about election fraud. “They only see what they want to see.”

He went on to say he had “coined a new term” for Democrats, “the EIE network.”

“Experts. In. Evil,” Gutierrez said. “They’re evil. They’re sinister.”

Labeling political opponents as evil is dangerous, Swecker wrote, and it has no place in our democracy. 

“Statements like Gutierrez’s that go unreproved by GOP leadership is tantamount to an endorsement of their sentiment, and the hatred and violence it invites,” she wrote. “It is critical that we ensure competent, well-informed, nonpartisan individuals carry out the essential functions of local government – individuals motivated not by political advancement, but by service to their commonwealth and their community.” 

‘We do not use that term’ 

Buckingham County Republican Committee Chair Ramona Christian said any statements Gutierrez made labeling Democrats as evil doesn’t represent her or the Republican Party. 

“Mr. Gutierrez does not speak for the Buckingham Republican Committee or the Chair,” she said. “I don’t agree with any of his statements. We do not use that term in the Buckingham County Republican Party.” 

Christian says she has been out of the loop regarding for the last few weeks, as she buried her father-in-law and both helped take care of her mother-in-law and get things organized for her son’s upcoming wedding, saying she missed his original comments. She said the comments have no place in the political discussion. 

“It’s uncalled for, calling other people evil,” Christian said. “This kind of rhetoric needs to stop.”

Christian said she and the chair of the Buckingham County Democratic Party, McCarthy Gause, met last week and agreed that it’s time to move forward and focus on the upcoming elections. 

“We both want to work together to make sure our elections go smoothly,” Christian said. “We agree the registrar situation is finished and we need to move forward.”

On the other side, Democrat and Buckingham County Board of Supervisors member Jordan Miles said to move forward in the county, people need to call out comments like this. 

“The people in power, Democratic and Republican, need to call a spade a spade,” Miles said. “I would hope that the Republican Party of Virginia and the governor would call it out. This is a reflection of their party. This small faction do not represent mainstream Republicans in Buckingham or in the Commonwealth, I would argue. I think regardless of what your political leaning is, the time is now to condemn these vitriolic statements.

‘In the heat of the moment’ 

Gutierrez meanwhile says his comments were said in the heat of the moment and not meant as an attack on all Democrats. 

“The moment I got fired is when I said that,” Gutierrez said. “That was probably not the smartest thing to do. I had just gotten fired. I was mad. I was disappointed with the electoral board chair, Ms. Cerwinski. I was disappointed Woody Hanes (the second electoral board member) didn’t say even two words, even though I thought she supported me.” 

When asked if he meant the evil comment, Gutierrez said no, he doesn’t believe all Democrats are evil. 

“There are many, many wonderful Democrats,” Gutierrez said, giving the example of one of his friends from graduate school, who is a Democrat. 

But that doesn’t mean he completely rejects the idea either. He points to specific Democrats that he has problems with. One of those is Jordan Miles. At the end of Gutierrez’s time as interim registrar, Miles sued his office and the electoral board, as his Freedom of Information Act requests had not been filled. The law requires a Freedom of Information Act request be handled within five business days, unless an extension is requested. Even that doesn’t push things back too far, as the extension can only go on for an additional seven working days, so 12 total by the latest. Miles filed his requests on April 14 and April 21. As of Monday, May 8, he still hadn’t received all of the requested information. 

Part of the lawsuit also raised questions about emails between Gutierrez and Miles. That includes a $200 convenience fee Gutierrez said he would add to the bill. He also asked Miles to make his check payable to Gutierrez himself, rather than the office. Those portions of the lawsuit were removed and Gutierrez himself was removed as a defendant, after he was fired from his position. 

Gutierrez said since he took office, he feels like his words have been turned around and misinterpreted. 

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s bullying me,” Gutierrez said. “He’s finding every little word to twist.” 

But Gutierrez wants to make it clear that what he says are “my comments, not the Republican Party’s comments. It’s not the Buckingham Republican Committee’s comments.” 

As for Miles, he’s still waiting for some documents, material from those two FOIA requests he had made in April. 

On Wednesday, he received notice that the first of his two requests had been filled. He said it’s a step in the right direction, but added there’s still one more to go. As for what happens next, he said it depends. 

“It’s going to depend on what’s in that envelope,” Miles said. “Are (the documents) together? Are they whole? These are very mundane, run of the mill documents, documents that should exist if the law was followed.”