The filing date in the race for the 3rd District congressional seat is still a year away, but the in-party fighting has already begun.

County Commission Chairman Brent Morris, who is considering a congressional bid, on Tuesday fired his secretary, Sue Arseneau, one day after her husband announced in a newspaper story that he planned to run for Congress next year.Morris admits he fired Arseneau, who is county GOP vice chairwoman, but was tight-lipped regarding his reasons.

"She was my confidential secretary, and what took place between us on her job status is personal," Morris said, adding that "she was an excellent employee."

Arseneau, who worked 14 months for Morris, said he told her she was being fired because he doubted her loyalty.

With the filing date so far away, "I think that's very premature. I worked hard for him and never gave him any reason to feel like I hadn't been loyal. That was a great insult to me."

County GOP Chairman Wayne Watson said Morris' action was unhealthy for the party.

"Republicans don't need to be fighting Republicans," Watson said. He said the party encourages competition among party candidates, "but that does not include political infighting and backbiting or any type of inappropriate campaign conduct. We believe elections ought to be fought in the public view."

Nevertheless, Watson said, "I don't have any plans of sitting down with him. That's not my responsibility. But this is an appropriate thing for the (Party's Republican Principles in Government) committee to look into."

In Monday's newspaper story on possible congressional candidates, Morris was quoted as saying he was "looking into" the possibility of running. Ironically, Arseneau said, she had considered asking Morris to help with her husband's campaign.

As non-merit county employees, commissioners' secretaries can be hired or fired at the commissioners' pleasure. But Arseneau said Morris could at least have given her some notice.