A former Republican House of Delegates candidate was censured by his own party on Saturday after dropping out of the race two weeks before the June 20 primary elections.
The 5th Congressional District GOP Committee alleges in its censure resolution that Farmville attorney John Marsden’s sudden decision to call it quits cost Virginia taxpayers more than $50,000, and additionally forced election officials “to take time out of their lives to man a polling precinct on Primary Election Day as well as during early voting” in a primary where only one candidate ran.
“John Marsden’s actions were contrary to the Republican Party’s belief in fiscal responsibility,” the resolution states. The vote to censure Marsden was unanimous.
Committee Chairman Rick Buchanan said in a phone interview Monday that Marsden’s censure was “a message, and I believe it was a good message. John should have made that decision long before the polls opened,” he said.
Buchanan said he was deeply disappointed with Marsden over his decision to quit. “I appreciate the fact that people challenge sitting delegates, senators and congressmen. It’s a good thing for us to be challenging each other, get the facts out and have a good contest. But John shut that down in our district.”
Marsden, a lifelong resident of Prince Edward County who has served as chairman of the Prince Edward County Republican Committee from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2022 to 2023, was seeking to unseat Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg, a 22-year veteran in the General Assembly, in the newly created 50th House District, which includes Mecklenburg, Charlotte and Lunenburg counties, and parts of Prince Edward and Halifax counties.
Marsden’s campaign was mostly self-funded. He took out $60,000 in loans for his campaign, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit tracking money in politics.
But on June 5, Marsden suddenly announced that he had made “the difficult decision” to withdraw from the race. “Over the last couple of weeks with the recent events that have happened within the Republican Party make this decision unavoidable,” Marsden said in a statement to supporters at the time.
Marsden added that he could not “in good conscience serve alongside certain individuals who have recently secured the Republican nomination for delegate” in their respective districts. “If elected, this would deprive the citizens of the 50th House District of a voice and the good quality representation that they deserve.”
He did not elaborate further, and did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment. Marsden also could not be reached by phone on Monday.
“The censure is the 5th District Republican Committee’s way of expressing strong disapproval of John Marsden’s actions,” said Will Pace, the chairman of the Pittsylvania County Republican Committee and the former chair of the 5th District GOP Committee.
“However, the censure does not remove Marsden from the Republican Party,” Pace said, adding that he doesn’t recall the last time the committee has ever censured a fellow Republican. “There was an attempt to censure Denver Riggleman in 2019, but that was unsuccessful.”
According to the censure resolution, Charlotte County spent between $6,000 and $10,000 on the June 20 Republican primary. Halifax spent between $13,000 and $15,000; Lunenburg around $11,500; Mecklenburg between $25,000 and $28,000, and Marden’s home locality Prince Edward County an estimated $23,000.
“Now therefore be it resolved that the Fifth Congressional District Republican Committee hereby censure John Marsden for forcing Republicans of Southside Virginia to pay for a state-run primary and wasting taxpayers money to conduct such primary, contrary to the principles of the Republican Party,” the resolution read.
While he strongly supported Marsden’s censure, Buchanan, the committee chair, said that expulsion would have gone too far. “I don’t think removing him from the party would have been under our committee’s purview,” he said.