West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart moved this week to distance himself from a conservative group he founded, after the organization aired a controversial ad in West Virginia's third district U.S. House race.
The television spot, produced by the West Virginia Conservative Foundation, attacks Democratic Representative Nick Rahall for his support of President Barack Obama and Arab-American groups.
Rahall, who has represented the state since 1977, is of Lebanese descent.
Stuart told Ry Rivard of the Charleston Daily Mail that he was unaware of Rahall's background.
WVCF was founded by Stuart, who told Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post that he resigned from the group on July 24, upon becoming Republican Party chair.
As of Oct. 3, Stuart's official bio on the state GOP site still had him listed as WVCF president. Alison Knezevich of the Charleston Gazette located a press release from WVCF dated for July 25, which still listed Stuart as WVCF president and made no mention of the resignation.
Rahall's ancestry has been common knowledge in the state for years and has been the subject of recent attacks from West Virginia Republicans.
The party's 2006 nominee for the seat, Kim Wolfe, raised the issue during his failed campaign to unseat Rahall.
Wolfe attacked Rahall in a campaign press release for his House votes on issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Wolfe cited Rahall's ethnic background, referring to him as the"most active lawmaker of Arab descent in Middle Eastern affairs."
According to Lawrence Messina of the Associated Press, WVCF is now being run by Charleston-based tea party activists Lance Eric Schultz and Nathaniel "Thorney" Lieberman
Messina reports that the work and activism of Lieberman, a photographer, appears on a blog that "routinely attacks Arabs and Muslims" and "promotes the view that Obama is a Muslim who may not have been born in the U.S."
According to Messina, WVCF has spent $227,000 on the ad, but will not reveal its donors.
Rahall, meanwhile, has fired back with an ad of his own, highlighting the scandal that cost Maynard his spot on the court.
A recent poll commissioned by Democrats showed Rahall with a comfortable lead over Maynard.
An Anzalone Liszt Research survey conducted Sept. 27-29 had Rahall at 59 percent to Maynard's 34 percent.