San Bernardino County Supervisor Rutherford leaves GOP over Jan. 6 statement – San Bernardino Sun

A Republican National Committee statement on Friday, Feb. 4, characterizing the events at the U.S Capitol last Jan. 6 as “legitimate political discourse” has prompted San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford to quit the party.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford.

At the RNC’s winter meeting Friday in Salt Lake City, a committee approved a resolution censuring Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, for criticizing former President Donald Trump and for participating in the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

“Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” the resolution reads in part, “and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes.”

“‘Legitimate political discourse’ does not describe what I saw on January 6th,” Rutherford, 53, wrote on Twitter Friday. “I’ve been @gop since the day I turned 18, but I’m out today. I love my country & liberty too much to abide either of the major parties’ nonsense.”

According to the RNC, “legitimate political discourse” does not refer to violence at the Capitol.

“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a written statement issued after the resolution passed. “They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol. That’s why Republican National Committee members and myself overwhelmingly support this resolution.”

McDaniel’s uncle, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, condemned the resolution before its passage.

“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” Romney wrote on Twitter. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”

Cheney and Kinzinger are the lone Republicans on the nine-person select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol breach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected Trump-aligned Republican nominees put forth by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, arguing they would have been intentionally disruptive to the process, and instead appointed the Trump-skeptical Cheney and Kinzinger.

Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney called Rutherford quitting the GOP a “big deal,” noting on Twitter that she is on a board representing a county of more than 2 million people. Pitney himself left the GOP in 2016, as he recounted in a 2017 USA Today op-ed “I was a Republican until Donald Trump hijacked my party.”

Rutherford, first elected in 2010, represents the Second District, which includes Rancho Cucamonga, most of Upland and Fontana, as well as the communities of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs. Her district was reshaped in December, as part of the once-every-decade redistricting, losing the right-leaning mountain communities in the upcoming election. Term limits prevent Rutherford from seeking reelection to the seat this year.

“I suspect a lot of political opportunism on her part,” said John Berry, a voting member of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. “I’m personally sorry to hear this, since I like her a lot as a person. … Shame on her. She’s going to abandon ship on the party that helped her get where she got.”

According to Marcia Godwin, a professor of political administration at University of La Verne, the RNC statement makes it difficult for non-Trump Republicans to claim that the Jan. 6 attack and the more extremist elements of Trumpism are aberrations within their party. This is especially challenging for more traditional, business-minded Republicans such as Rutherford in nonpartisan offices, Godwin said.

“Supervisor Rutherford has long had a reputation as a principled, relatively moderate Republican,” Godwin added. “She was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2010 by defeating a member of her own party, Paul Biane, in the midst of a corruption probe.”

Rutherford and Pitney aren’t alone in shifting their political affiliations.

The California GOP has been losing members for years. According to the California Secretary of State’s office, as of Aug. 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 Republicans, compared to 41% who are registered as Democrats.


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