Daily Press

Hampton official formally removed after racist Facebook post surfaces

- By Caitlyn Burchett Staff Writer Caitlyn Burchett, 727-2676059, caitlyn.burchett@ virginiame­dia.com

A Hampton Republican Party official accused of racist Facebook posts has been formally removed from his position as chair of the city’s Electoral Board after the Hampton Circuit Court signed off on his resignatio­n.

While David Dietrich resigned from the Hampton Electoral Board over the weekend, the order, signed Monday by Chief Judge Michael Gaten, formally relieves Dietrich of his “powers, rights, responsibi­lities and obligation­s” as a board member.

In a statement to The Virginian-Pilot, Rebecca Winn, vice chair of the board, said “our democracy is under attack.”

“That attack may look like an actual physical assault on our U.S. Capitol building or, in this case, like the appointmen­t of a white supremacis­t and nationalis­t to conduct and oversee our elections,” Winn said.

All cities and counties in Virginia have a three-member electoral board whose duties include: appointing the general registrar, training election officers, preparing ballots, conducting the election and certifying election results, according to the city’s website.

The Hampton GOP demanded Dietrich resign from his position after screenshot­s of the post surfaced at the beginning of April, according to a statement issued Friday on the organizati­on’s Facebook page. Dietrich is accused of publishing a Facebook post that referenced lynching Washington leaders and called them a racial slur.

Dietrich did not respond to reporters’ multiple attempts to reach him.

While Winn said she is unsure when the Hampton Republican Party first learned of Dietrich’s Facebook post, his “abhorrent views” came to her attention several weeks ago.

“With regard to the existence of extensive public informatio­n that should have raised red flags, I have no knowledge of what process is used by the Republican Party when selecting their nominees for appointmen­t or what attributes they deem to be desirable when making their selections,” Winn said.

Dietrich initially refused to step down, according to the statement. So, the Hampton GOP said it had asked the Hampton Circuit Court to remove Dietrich from his position. The chief judge is the appointing authority for all electoral board members.

Winn shared in a Facebook post Saturday that Dietrich had resigned. The resignatio­n came around 30 minutes after Gov. Glenn Youngkin echoed calls for Dietrich’s dismissal.

“I look forward to the Republican Party making a more thoughtful nomination to fill their newly vacant seat on our board, and I look forward to working together in unity as a board to oversee and carry out our elections and protect the rights of all of our voters,” Winn posted.

The president of the Hampton branch of the NAACP issued a statement of support in removing Dietrich Monday afternoon following word of the circuit court’s order.

“But, let the fact that he ever achieved such a position serve as a warning to all Virginians and to those across this country — white supremacy and nationalis­m is a persistent threat,” Gaylene Kanoyton said.

According to Kanoyton, Dietrich was a “longtime known racist” who compromise­d democracy.

“In this climate of fake news, the topic of deception is to usurp the integrity of elections by stating irregulari­ties in the voting process,” Kanoyton said.

Dietrich was appointed as chair of the Hampton Electoral Board beginning Jan. 1, 2022. His term was set to expire Dec. 31, 2024.

According to the court order, Hampton GOP must submit a list of qualified candidates for considerat­ion to the circuit court within 30 days. The court will then appoint one of the candidates to fill the seat left vacant by Dietrich for the remainder of his term.

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