By SEAN O'SULLIVAN • The News Journal
The Delaware Republican Party's standard-bearer in the 2006 race for U.S. Senate has been expelled from his position in the state GOP.
His crime? Quietly supporting Democrat Barack Obama for president.
"Evidently someone went online and saw that I had been making contributions to Obama," Jan Ting said Friday.
Ting also was captured in a photograph at an Obama rally in Wilmington in February that drew record crowds to Rodney Square. At the time, Ting declined to comment about why he was there.
But apparently that appearance, and about $250 in donations to the Illinois senator, who is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was enough for the state party to brand Ting a traitor, according to the former Republican candidate.
State GOP Chairman Tom Ross said Friday he was unaware of details of the situation with Ting, noting it happened before he took over.
"I certainly didn't throw Jan out of the party," he said, adding he was aware of Ting's support for Obama.
After the Obama photo appeared, Ting said he was invited to an April meeting at a coffee shop in Pennsylvania. State GOP regional chairman Bill Sahm and a district chairman informed Ting his Obama activities had been discussed at the highest levels of the state party.Ting said they told him, "unless you are willing to recant that and swear allegiance to the party nominee John McCain, we are compelled to request your resignation from the Republican Committee."
Ting said he had been a member of the committee for 25 years -- and when he was asked to leave, he was a committeeman for the 7th election district of the 11th representative district.
Ting also is a former chairman of the party's Brandywine region and had been in the Delaware delegation to three Republican national conventions.
Party loyalty demanded
Sahm said Friday he hopes Ting still considers him a friend.
He said he told Ting he should show discretion in public, through things like political donations, and "as a prominent Republican you should think of our party's interests and put them above personal interests."
"One word led to another," Sahm recalled.
He said Ting asked if they were looking for him to resign. Sahm said he replied, " 'If you can't be loyal, that might be best for all concerned.' We shook hands and he did."
Sahm said they didn't "cast him into the wilderness ... That wasn't the case at all."
James Soles, a retired University of Delaware political science professor and longtime political observer, said he was surprised by the party's reaction.
"Delawareans seldom cast a straight party ticket," he said, adding he is a loyal Democrat but has supported Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Castle.
"I think people do expect committee people in particular to be loyal to the party," Soles said, but added he never heard of someone being forced out like this from either party. "Mr. Ting has been a very loyal Republican and has carried water for the party on a number of occasions," Soles said. "I guess the Republican Party, in Delaware in particular, feels a little on the defensive."
Sahm said if this incident happened "on the other side of the fence, and a Democrat was supporting McCain, I would hope in the best interests of their party, they would do the same. That is what party loyalty is all about."
Ting said after the April meeting, he wrote an e-mail to then-GOP Chairman Terry Strine, who then told Ting that, essentially, he would be welcomed back when he decided to support McCain.
"I'm still a registered Republican and still have affinity for the Republican Party ... but on the other hand, I'm ticked off," Ting said, adding the demand for his resignation was "uncalled for," and inconsistent with past party practice.
He noted that the man state Republican Party officials enthusiastically supported and expected to be the party's nominee for governor this year -- Alan Levin -- had donated money to Democrats, including Ting's 2006 opponent for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Tom Carper.
Ting said he did not hold the donation against Levin and hosted an event at his home for Levin in anticipation of his candidacy. Levin later decided not to run.
A professor at Temple University School of Law, Ting mentioned his "expulsion" from the party Friday during a phone call about an unrelated legal story.
During the Republican primary for president this year, Ting supported and was an adviser to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and said he could have stood behind several of the other candidates including Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or even Ron Paul.
Ting also Harvard law grad
However, Ting said he has long had a number of reservations about Arizona Sen. McCain because of the candidate's age, 71. He also has concerns about McCain's temperament and past positions on illegal immigration and the Iraq war.
McCain was closely associated with an unsuccessful immigration reform effort that critics, like Ting, called an amnesty program.
Ting said that, like other Republicans, he has become convinced that the Iraq war is a mistake that is needlessly costing American lives.
Ting said his wife Helen was an enthusiastic Obama supporter, "so I took a closer look." And he said he made his first donation to Obama's campaign around the time of Obama's visit to Delaware.
Ting said he disagrees with some of Obama's positions -- like some tax increases -- but he finds plenty to like in the Democrat.
"He is a law teacher, like me. We went to the same law school and basically he thinks it is a mistake to be so engaged in Iraq when we should be focused on Afghanistan," Ting said.
Soles said he thought Ting's position represented "a form of intellectual honesty that we should have a little more of on both sides of the aisle."