March 30, 2008
In spite of rumors that a holy war was brewing, the Staunton Republican Committee's 2008 mass meeting went fairly smoothly. Just in case, two members of the Staunton Police Department were there to maintain order. The City Council chambers [were] filled to capacity with eighty three residents of Staunton identifying themselves as Republicans, with a large contingent of outside visitors and reporters. Bath County GOP Chairman Andy Jones chaired the mass meeting, and a series of three-minute speeches on behalf of various party and government candidates ensued. The most notable speaker was Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who happened to sit next to me. In his speech he reminded everyone of the continuing threat of terrorism. He is aware that whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination this summer, he will face a serious challenge for the first time in years.
Incumbent GOP Sixth District Chairman Fred Anderson was among the visiting party leaders who was "pressing the flesh," as was the man who is challenging him, Jim Crosby of Botetourt (rhymes with Hottentot) County. Mr. Crosby was present as an observer at our April 2007 meeting at which State Senator Emmett Hanger spoke to us. Others in the party later claimed that that meeting was "illegal," but neither Crosby nor the other two observers gave any hint at the time that anything was amiss.
In my speech to the assembled gathering, I tried to emphasize my long record of promoting dialogue and open communication among party members, and the need to hold the incumbent accountable for the mishaps of the past year. I also sharply differentiated my preference for campaign strategies that target non-ideological results-oriented voters, on one hand, to Ms. Taetzsch's desire to "energize the base." I wish I had been given enough time to talk about Web sites, blogs, etc., But none of that really mattered, because nearly everyone came already committed, and very few people bothered to look at my brochure. The Sunday News Leader accurately quoted me making what I considered to be the central point:
It's really a question of who is best equipped to lead this committee in a way that unifies the party, that reaches out to all factions and emphasizes what unites us. That is where I believe my strong point is."
What follows is an audio recording of my (ultra-condensed) speech, lasting three minutes:
In her speech, incumbent candidate Anne Taetzsch explained her reasons for being a Republican: "I'm pro-family, I'm pro-life, and I'm pro-defense." Her main emphasis was the "wedge" issues aimed at "energizing the base," such as fighting pornography and local tax hikes. She did not talk about the need to unify diverse factions of the party. As for John McCain, the GOP nominee who has often been described by some as a "RINO," Taetzsch said he is much better than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. "If we can't rally people around the candidate, we will rally them around the issues."
Afterwards, Taetzsch told Bob Stuart of the News Virginian what she thought about the Staunton GOP election: "It's a clear mandate. ... The people had a choice, and now we move forward." On that point, I would strongly agree. In my speech I made it crystal clear what the choice was, and the people spoke.
I was impressed with the careful planning for the event, including laptop computers to verify voter registration status. (Or screen out "RINOs," perhaps? ) They even brought donuts and coffee, but I was too stuffed from having eaten a hearty pancake breakfast. Some attendees were taken aback that Augusta County Chairman Kurt Michael was coordinating the event. I was not surprised. Extreme care was taken in giving the ballots to each participant, and in counting the votes. In the end, it wasn't even close: Taetzsch 58, Clem 20. Afterwards, we shook hands and both assured everyone that we would work together in the fall campaign. Congratulations to Ms. Taetzsch.
Toward the end of the meeting, however, a controversy erupted when Nominations Committee Chairman Alex Davis (!) reported back a slate of committee member nominees that excluded the Ergenbrights and the Fretwells, who are among the most active, loyal, and longest-tenured members of the Staunton Republican Committee. That was too much even for the meeting participants who are largely "innocent" of all the recent intrigues and backbiting. So, the Nominations Committee went back to the drawing board a couple more times before a list was submitted that did not exclude the long-standing members, but it did not allocate members by ward, as is required by the state party plan. [Because the Nominations Committee] failed to carry out its task in due form, the [Staunton Republican] committee will be faced with the awkward predicament of how to reapportion itself at the next monthly meeting.
Alex, a.k.a. "Johnathan Maxfield," recently raised false alarms about the supposed intention of local Democrats to "stack" our meeting. Such unfounded rumor-mongering was part of a long-standing campaign to portray the more pragmatically-minded Republicans such as Emmett Hanger as being disloyal to the party, or even collaborating in secret with the Democrats. Such statements cannot help but further divide the party.
On a more upbeat note, Scott Sayre came up to me after the mass meeting and offered his services to help reunify the party. That would certainly be nice.
Another nice thing was that many people truly appreciated the fact that there was a contested race this [year] with a real choice to make. Usually, party mass meetings are dull, pointless routines. I was gratified that several people who voted for Ms. Taetzsch thanked me for the polite, dignified way that I campaigned.
Outside the city limits, meanwhile, Kurt Michael faces five (5) putative challengers for his position as Augusta County GOP chairman: Sharon Hanger, David Beyeler, Larry Roller, Steve Kijak, and Vickie Parkinson. I assume one of those five will emerge as the lone opposing candidate on the day of the mass meeting, April 10. "SWAC Girl", who recently came all the way out of the closet and identified herself openly as Lynn Mitchell, took note of that odd multiple-challenge situation. She referred to those the above-named people as "five of Emmett Hanger's most trustworthy supporters," which seemed like a misleading characterization to me. So, I tried to post a comment on her blog, but it was not accepted, apparently. Here it is:
FACT CHECK: One of those five was part of "Bloggers 4 Sayre," not exactly one of "Emmett Hanger's most trustworthy supporters." (But you knew that.) Besides, I thought YOU were a Hanger supporter now (since the $3,000 pledge, anyway), so what's the problem? "We are Republicans and we ... work ... together."
The sardonic reference to $3,000 concerns a patently phony gesture of support for Senator Hanger made by local Republican committee leaders last September, and the last sentence is a quote from Lynn's blog last June.
NOTE: Since the extreme discord of last summer and subsequent "mediation efforts," I have made it a point to avoid blogging about local politics, not wanting to "air dirty laundry" or further inflame tensions with people with whom I used to be closely associated. After today, at least for the time being, I intend to resume my general policy of discretion.
I got a tip from the "phriendly pholks" at Daily Whack Job. Tell me it isn't so!