Home Virginia Politics Turmoil at the Republican Party of Virginia: A Recap

Turmoil at the Republican Party of Virginia: A Recap


I realized yesterday that I hadn’t really written anything here on the turmoil at the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), including the departure (aka, housecleaning) of pretty much the entire RPV staff. I thought it might be helpful to provide a summary to what I’ve read, and what I’m hearing from my own sources. Enjoy — with or without butter on your popcorn! 🙂

*Earlier today, Lynn Mitchell reported that we should expect a complete housecleaning at RPV, which she calls “the St. Valentine’s Day massacre,” with pretty much everyone heading out the door. According to Mitchell, the end result of this will be that the RPV is going to be left with only “a state chairman and two staffers.” Mitchell adds, intriguingly, “The interesting part is going to be the names Whitbeck comes up with for replacements.” Note: Whitbeck, of course, is the anti-Semitic “joke” guy, now chair of the RPV. Charming, eh?

*In its story this past Sunday, the Washington Post emphasized that all of this adds more turmoil to “a party beset by infighting and financial trouble since then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat,” as “the party continues to try to cope with a schism between business-centric Republicans, including Cantor, and a tea-party influenced coalition of conservatives who currently run the party’s governing board.” I know, I know, it couldn’t happen to a better bunch. Heh.

*Also swirling around the past few months has been Tea Partier Susan Stimpson’s primary of House Speaker Bill Howell, including Stimpson’s accusation that “residents of [Howell’s] Fredericksburg-area district recently received a four-page glossy mailer that gives the incorrect impression that the party has endorsed him.” Not surprisingly, these accusations did not make powerful people like Howell happy. More broadly, what I’m hearing is that the House and Senate Republican caucuses (aka, the “establishment”) are in no mood to give money to a party they see as controlled by the same Tea Partiers who are busy primarying their incumbents, and who apparently are more concerned with (far-right-wing) ideological purity than about winning elections. Hey, that works for me. 🙂

*As Norm Leahy of Bearing Drift wrote recently, “one thing is clear: this is now Ken Cuccinelli’s party.” Leahy even alluded to “the whole thing from evolving into a kind of French Directory,” referring to a less-than-bright (not to mention bloody) period following the French revolution. Again, all I have to say is, “Republicans, please don’t ever change!” LOL

*Meanwhile, another Bearing Drift story argues that donors “are just not as comfortable with [John Whitbeck] at the reins as they were with Mullins.” What I’m hearing is that it isn’t Whitbeck, particularly, but what I wrote above — namely, that the “establishment” Virginia Republicans are not inclined to give money to a party which they see as hostile to them, and have implictly or explictly encouraged their people not to send money the party’s way. I’m not sure how Whitbeck can fix this problem, even if that’s his intention, because it’s structural and fundamental to today’s Republican Party — they’ve been trying to ride the Tea Party “tiger,” without getting eaten by it, and at best it’s a tricky act to pull off in the long run.

*There’s lots more “inside baseball” stuff roiling around, including a story about how after Eric Cantor lost his primary to Dave Brat, he supposedly wanted to make a contribution specifically earmarked towards “GOTV” for Brat. I hear that RPV Executive Director Shaun Kenney was concerned, quite reasonably it seems to me (although it no doubt pissed off some powerful people in the party), that this could entail improper “coordination” under FEC rules, and insisted that the contribution go directly to the state party. This was followed, apparently, by a threatened lawsuit by a mail vendor who (again, quite reasonbly, it seems to me) wanted to get paid for the work he did on the Brat election. That, I’m told, made Brat’s and Cantor’s folks nervous, as they didn’t want any allegations coming out about improper coordination.

*I’ve heard two wild rumors, neither of which do I believe is likely to happen in the end, but nonetheless fun to pass on. Wild rumor #1: There’s the outside possibility that the RPV could actually declare bankruptcy. Personally, I find it almost impossible to imagine that major Republican donors, the RNC, etc. would allow this to happen, but I suppose anything’s possible. Wild rumor #2: “Establishment” Republicans theoretically could try to dismantle the current RPV and reconstitute a new one. Of course, that would require a vote by a closely-divided State Central Committee, not to mention serious cojones, and again I don’t see it. FYI, according to the RPV Party Plan, the State Central Committee is (at least in theory) powerful, with the authority to “make the final decision, upon timely appeal, on all Party controversies and contests in any Election District of the State, rulings of the General Counsel and on all other matters deemed to affect the efficiency of the Party organization or the success of the Party.” In the end, as much as I just can’t imagine this actually happening, it does show you how deep the rifts must be between the “Tea Party” and “Establishment” wings of the RPV for this to even be rumored as a remote possibility.

*Finally, I’d add that all of this comes in the context of a time when state parties are becoming increasingly outmoded, in the era of “SuperPACs,” “527s,” “Citizens United,” etc., and that it’s becoming more and more difficult to effectively run, fund, or operate one. It’s even worse with the vicious factionalism Virginia Republicans have been experiencing, but in fairness, it’s not exactly “happy days are here again” for Virginia Democrats either…


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