Don’t Piss Off the Grassroots

You know, it sounds pretty simple.

Voters vote. Get them to the polls. Grassroots help identify and contact voters, use them, coddle them and work with them.

You’re going to trust your neighbor, your friend, the person who cuts your hair, etc. far more than a direct mail piece, a robo-call, or television ad.

Eric Cantor spent $3 million directly for his campaign. You can be sure the majority of that went to mail pieces, television ads, and absurd consultants fees. Voter contact was a national operation, not a local one. Then there was this:

But Eric Cantor, or more importantly for tonight’s results, his consulting team, led by Ray Allen, make a critical error in the aftermath of Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat last year:

They were going to take back the Republican Party. Grassroots be damned.

This wasn’t Establishment v Tea Party, not originally, no sir. This was ‘mainstream conservatives’ getting together and taking back their party, the party of the right.

You may have heard of the YG, Young Guns. In the past six months, we’ve heard a lot more about them. Originally, Young Guns was created to identify and support young Republican leaders around the country in their candidacies for elected offices, with financial and logistical support. The founder of Young Guns? Eric Cantor.

But somehow, YG bastardized itself, and this year decided to use it’s political and financial clout in Virginia to begin a systematic takeover of Republican offices. The idea was to seize control of the Republican State Central Committee, control that was lost when the Ray Allen and Boyd Marcus-led Bill Bolling campaign was blindsided by grassroots supporters who took legitimate control of State Central two years ago. That sea change then quickly overturned the absurdly early primary decision forced by Allen and Marcus, designed to benefit Bolling (earlier, George Allen), but backlashed and resulted in losing their majority on the committee.

Conventions vs Primaries took the stage, with both sides angling for talking points, leverage and in some drastic (and overreactive/wrong/ill-thoughout) cases, legislative measures to abolish conventions. In the midst of all of this, city and county mass meetings were being prepared to set up for the District conventions in April and May, where District Chairs, Officers, including State Central members would elected.

So Marcus sells out to the embracing arms of Terry McAuliffe, leaving Ray Allen and the Young Guns, YG (now in Allen’s control) to wrestle back the Republican Party. They scour the Party Plan and utilize a little-used tactic to springboard themselves back to power.


Take it away, then-blogger, now RPV Executive Director, Shaun Kenney:

For those unfamiliar with this, here’s how slating works. 200 people show up at a mass meeting as potential delegates for 100 seats at a convention. One side rises and reads off a list of names — a slate — and the majority then elects those individuals as the only ones who can go to the convention. As you can see, if one side in particular chose to slate their convention delegates, that candidate would then receive 100% of the votes for that locality, rather than a proportional number of votes based on actual numbers at the mass meeting.

That article, appropriately titled ‘Slating is Evil’, was in response to the revelation of the game plan for YG-backed candidates, at the direction of YG, by extension, Ray Allen and his consultants.

Virginia Beach, which would prove to be YG/Ray Allen (and by extension, Eric Cantor)’s high-water mark, nearly 1,000 delegates were ambushed with a slating motion. Rumors had been floating about it happening, but disenfranchising average citizens, many of whom do not follow, play or give a rat’s ass about inside baseball procedurals such as slating requirements, were dumbfounded and confused. Despite numerous objections, questionable counting, and utter confusion from most delegates, the YG backed State Senator Frank Wagner prevailed, disenfranchising nearly 99% of the people in the room, choosing a pre-picked 32 to represent the 99%’s ‘interests.’

The grassroots HOWLED with indignation. Ray Allen and YG consultant Rob Catron had staged a coup, a master stroke, or at least it seemed that way at the time. With 32 pre-picked people representing Virginia Beach at the 2nd District Convention, 60+% of the entire District vote was in the bag, and with it, the 2nd District Chairman’s position and crucial State Central positions. Supporters for slating crowed, with nonsensical quips like, ‘don’t play the game then complain about the rules’, or “Last time I checked politics wasn’t the local garden club.” (sorry Lee). More than half of attendees had no idea what had just happened, that their elected officials and party leaders had just snatched their vote away.

That YG, Allen and Catron were linked to Eric Cantor was never in doubt. But while there were mild rumblings and grumblings about Cantor prior to the Virginia Beach slating fiasco, this was an the first shot in the ‘war on grassroots’ by YG, and so far as the grassroots were concerned, this was a declaration of war by Cantor. Whether or not Cantor had anything to do with it is a point of debate, yet by extension of the actions of his consultants, Eric Cantor was now even more of a target.

The stage was next set in Henrico County mass meeting, a Cantor stronghold, where interests in the 3rd and 7th Districts would be decided. In response to YG’s actions in Virginia Beach, Fred Gruber, Linwood Cobb & Chris Stearns raced to line up Henrico delegates for the meeting. In a tense and close vote, a slating motion was narrowly defeated, preserving the voting rights for every delegate in Henrico.

Close call, but no harm, no foul, right?

Except when Pat Mullins publicly repudiated the practice of slating in his home county, Louisa, Linwood Cobb, who had clearly supported and whipped votes for slating earlier for 7th District Henrico, astoundingly claimed in public response, that no delegate in the 7th was slated off.

The grassroots HOWLED, again. Cobb was quickly called out repeatedly by Henrico delegates, that the only reason slating had not occurred was in spite of Cobb, rather than because of. The Henrico mass meeting was one of the final nails in the coffin of Cobb’s tenure as Chair, and staunch Cantor supporter. The signs were there in May, at the 7th District Convention. With a fully seated group of delegates, Cobb was ousted as Chair, and Cantor was roundly booed throughout his speech.

And Virginia Beach? Well the 2nd District Executive Committee voted to overturn the slating decision, seating all delegates. With a full complement of attendees, Curtis Colgate defeated YG-backed Wagner, in a close call, but another defeat to YG. For all the planning, there nothing left to show for it.

Tonight, YG’s benefactor and founder met a politically untimely end. By the end of the County mass meetings and district conventions, the actions of YG, Allen and again, by extension Cantor, were indefensible. The tactics used, brazenly and in bullying fashion, thoroughly agitated and riled the grassroots. Efforts had been made for years to primary and move Cantor out of office, efforts that fell flat; Cantor won a primary with more than 80% of the vote in 2012.

But in the aftermath of 2013, the game changed. Rather than being defensive, Cantor-backed allies went on the offensive, with plans to take back control of the Republican Party of Virginia. Those maneuvers set in motion a series of events that would unite the grassroots while slating supporters fell quietly by the wayside. YG’s plans backfired spectacularly, with defeats in multiple District Chairman’s races, which are minimal in comparison to what is by far the biggest blow, the first primary loss for a sitting House Majority Leader, ever.

YG target and 3rd District Chairman summed up his thoughts on tonight’s race:

So yes, amnesty/immigration, aversion to the shutdown, Tea Party, throw pretty much any excuse at the wall and you’re going to probably get at least a little credit for correct analysis in this political stunner. But after the way last six months have played out, back and forth, I think one takeaway deserves to be mentioned first:

Don’t piss off the grassroots.

  • Craig Scott

    Nice D.J., spot on, and thank you.

  • Warmac9999

    The real third rail of politics is kids. When you mess with my kids or grand kids, you mess with the most important things for my future. Rightly or wrongly, along with the untimely children’s invasion of the southern border, Cantor was perceived as pro illegal immigrant – but worse anti-American kid. (He was solving the immigration mess by creating unfair competition for American kids).

    No politician can survive this perception, and Cantor is no exception. You can call this nativism, racism, whatever you want – but the American working class (mainly Republican) is frustrated, angry and disenfranchised by their bloated government.

    • Doug Brown

      This is just not about American kids. The elite in this country has already shown they don’t give a … about any kids unless they can use them to promote whatever political agenda they have. What we have in the SW is a situation created by the Democrats, and their Republican me-tooers, in which children are being exploited for political gain. We really have a bunch of sick puppies running the show in DC.

      • Warmac9999

        First, I do not blame the Republican Party for the mess – Obama in his DACA speech in 2012 did this all by himself. I do blame the Republican Party for its attempts to fix his mess on the backs of Americans and their kids. Second, these kids crossing the SW border have been encouraged to do so by their parents and governments. This is an invasion pure and simple. Third, what do we do with tens if not hundreds of thousands of these children? There are no orphanages, foster care is already swamped, and letting them go unaccompanied will be a disaster for cities and states. Finally, how do we shut off the flow – and that assumes there is such a desire? Do we put troops on the border? Do we invade Mexico? Do you really believe Obama has any plan to stop the chaos he started?

        Maybe you don’t think this about American kids, but in the long run it is absolutely about their opportunities to exist and prosper without the unfair competition of illegal immigrants.

        • Doug Brown

          I didn’t say that this isn’t about American kids, I know all too well how much this is about American kids, but the Republican Party is a contributor to this mess at the border, because they’ve been afraid to challenge the Administration where it is vulnerable on the issue.

          • Warmac9999

            I reacted to the first sentence in your previous comment which said,”This is just not about American kids”. I pretty much agree with the rest of what you said. The problem is “how do you challenge an administration that is not accountable under the law and uses race as a shield?” And if we get Hillary as president she will operate above the law and use sex as a shield. I don’t see how we get back to our constitutional underpinnings.

          • Doug Brown

            You’re right this is fundamentally a rule of law issue and the Administration is using race as a shield, but there are a lot of wholes in that shield , just as there are a lot holes in Hillary’s shield as a champion of women everywhere.

            The exploitation of these poor children crossing the border with the Administration and Democratic Congressmen cheering them on is a gapping whole in that shield.

            How do you challenge them. You bring them to court and to the court of public opinion. At least that is what I’m doing. And I’m not doing it as Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Progressive etc., I’m doing it as an American citizen in support of a group of whistleblowers who started coming out of DHS in 2005-2006. If you want to get a sense of how bad their situation is look at the retaliation experienced by VA employees, and then multiply it by a factor of ten.

          • Warmac9999

            I would add another dimension to this humanitarian crisis. The Mexican government is complicit in this invasion and has not been called out in any fashion. It is time to take this to an international court. Personally, I favor a very strong response like troops on the border to seal it followed by the use of thousands of school buses headed south back across the border. If Mexican authorities resist reintegration of these kids, then use the big stick.

            Obviously, Obama will not do this as he wants the crisis for his own political purposes.

          • Doug Brown
          • Warmac9999

            Of course these people come from many central and South American countries. The Mexican government facilitates there access to the borders. Unless we wish to go to war against all of central and South America, we have to make a rather strong point with the Mexican authorities. This humanitarian crisis should not be foisted solely on the American citizenry.

          • Doug Brown

            I don’t see us going there with the current gang in charge. But if they are going to send the kids lawyers, I would like American children and families to be provided free legal service to protect our rights as citizens. Why don’t American lawmakers make any payment for lawyers to these poor kids contingent on free lawyers for American kids in need. Lawyers for everyone!

          • Downstater

            Obama has pretty much given this a green light and of course takes no responsibility. And this is the guy establishment R’s think is going to uphold any kind of deal regarding border security.

          • Downstater

            Well, because they are children, no one is going to want to send them back, and the organizers of this know that. it was plotted and planned that way. We are being played for suckers. No other country would allow itself to be invaded in this manner.

          • Warmac9999

            If you don’t send them back, then who will take care of them. Maybe we can release all the GItmo murderers and send them to GItmo. There is no orphanage system – although we could give them obama’s pill and clean out the nursing homes. Foster care is already overloaded – so maybe we could give the American welfare class more looted dollars if they will house some of these kids.

            Obviously, Obama won’t solve the problem. He has found yet another way to turn America into a cesspool.

  • Lady_Penguin

    Excellent article, thank you. It all started here in VA02. The machinations of the Establishment political machine, and Cantor’s Young Gun scorched earth slating efforts across the state against the regular folks stirred them up to take notice of what would have otherwise been nothing more than a rubber stamp election for Cantor.
    Eric Cantor lost because he became a politician instead of a representative and statesman.

    • Warmac9999

      65,000 votes were caste. Not all of these were caste by inside baseball players who care about or even understand the machinations of selecting candidates. What was at stake was far more important and the Republican establishment had best figure it out.

      • MD Russ

        Really? 65,000 votes were caste? How many were Brahmin and how many were Untouchables?

        • Warmac9999

          You are correct. It should have been wheat or chaff, or a rose by another name, or ballots not bullets, or hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to vote we go. So many choices, so little time to out fox the dreaded spell checker.

  • vassar bushmills

    Great analysis, perfect seminar for precinct chairman around the country, to check their rules and look for the blindside. VA conservatives were wise not to cave and recover instead….proof of steadfastness, among other things. Tracking Allen’s career the next several weeks will be instructive. Scorched earth? You know him better than most. get out in front,

    • TheLizard3211223

      I fear sabotage of the general election, similar to what Bolling orchestrated Cuccinelli claimed the nomination. Let’s encourage Cantor and Allen to help unify the party, instead of continuing to try to destroy it.

      • vassar bushmills

        I like your use of the word “encourage” S. But I think that is way out of character for both. I expect a knife in the back.

  • Turbocohen

    Positively the best timeline of events that led to last nights victory for 7th district. Great job DJ. This deserves to be top of the page Drudge.

  • EMSoliDeoGloria

    Well said.

  • Richmond Republican

    This is a very important part of the analysis that many folks are missing. It may have been the spark that set the kindling of neglect aflame and that got stronger still with the wood of a disingnuous attack campaign and a few bad votes. For those of us who are old enough, slating has a miserable history in the Party and was the source of wounds going back to the Wyatt Durrette – Stan Parris battles that took a decade to heal.

  • Skeeter

    I wish this truth was louder, instead of people just swallowing the MSM talking points: “it’s all about immigration”.
    Well then why didn’t that take down McConnell?

    • Doug Brown

      True, immigration was just one of the issues that contributed to Brat’s victory, but it was an issue that the candidate himself identified as a major if not the major issue of the campaign. So the issue is now – Is the candidate going to be able to run his own campaign and speak for himself , or is everything going to transmitted thru pundits, consultants, and blog commentators?.

      • MD Russ

        Well, immigration might have budged the needle, but let us be clear: lots of single-issue candidates have gone down in flames. Brat did not win so much that Cantor lost. I believe that is the thesis of DJ’s post. This is not intended to denigrate Brat’s victory–he found a softness in Cantor’s appeal in VA-7 and exploited it. He had a lot of help from Cantor whose attack ads raised Brat’s name recognition in the district.

        Frankly, I thought that Cantor was a lot smarter than that.

        • Doug Brown

          Well, I don’t think Brat treats it as a stand alone issue so I think he avoids, and I expect that he will avoid the pitfalls of coming off as a single-issue candidate along the lines of Tancredo type candidate.
          Yeah, I was also a little surprised at Cantor’s attacks on Brat, it sent all the signals one would think Cantor would have been sure to avoid, but both Congressmen and staffers do tend to lose touch over the years with everyday people and their concerns.

          • MD Russ

            And your last sentence is the crux of DJ’s point, I believe. I have spent time on Capitol Hill, not as a lobbyist or staffer but as a consultant. Both the member staff and the professional committee staff tend to be sycophants who are more concerned with nurturing the inflamed egos of the members. The entourage that a leader such as Cantor requires just to walk from his office to the House floor is disgusting–right out of Imperial Rome.

            Term limits now.

  • Britt Howard

    Good article! Any Chris Stearns quote is always a bonus and that was a good one.

    • Albert Aho

      As I understand it, Mr. Stearns’ views on issues like homosexual sodomy, atheism, open-borders, and abortion, are so far outside of the mainstream that they might as well be intergalactic.

  • Bill Steinbach

    Great piece, DJ.

  • MD Russ

    Excellent analysis, DJ. And it has far more depth than the over-simplifications that it was a backlash to immigration amnesty, that it was Democratic raiding, that it is a resurgence of the Tea Party, or that it was a full moon. (On the Tea Party point, please note that David Brat got no funding from outside Tea Party organizations. From reports I have read, they considered it and decided that he was not electable.)

    The first order of business is taking care of business. And when it came to the 7th CD, Cantor apparently failed to do that. This does not bode well for incumbents next November, both Republican and Democratic. What else would you expect when Congress as a whole enjoys a 15% approval rating. Term limits now.

  • Chips Ahoy Cookie

    Great post.

    It all goes back much further …

    Before this it was the establishment vs. grassroots in Cuccinelli for governor, the state convention, etc.

    Before that it was the establishment vs. grassroots at the national convention, changes in the rules, etc.

    Before that it was the establishment vs. grassroots in Allen vs. Radtke.

    Before that it was the establishment playing to the grassroots in McDonnell vs. Deeds.

    Anyone who thinks all of this fell out of a clear blue sky hasn’t been paying attention.

    • Downstater

      The establishment VA GOP would rather hand the state to Tmac/Herring and his illegal cohorts, then to the conservative wing. Bolling had been promised the governorship, like a tenure, just as Cantor was promised the House speakership.

  • Downstater

    Today’s Wash. Post described Cantor as spending Tues. at a monthly meeting of high end donors at a Starbucks on Capital Hill. HE WASN’T EVEN IN HIS DISTRICT. HIS DISTRICT WAS NOT THAT FAR AWAY. Not like his district was in Idaho and he had to spend Taxpayer dollars to get there.

  • Greg Letiecq

    Good article, D.J. Keep up the good work.

  • Downstater

    Okay, this was a very good piece. I’ve seen several articles about slating on BD leading up to yesterday, but this was an explanation of how the “Cantor Machine” led up to yesterday’s defeat. There was something in an earlier piece about a $5K filing fee for 7th district chairman. Is this way higher than other districts and was in put in place by Cantor to keep the rif-raff out?

  • Downstater

    Oh, Eric, and thanks so much for the efforts and support in helping elect our Republican ticket of Cuccinelli,Obenshain, and Jackson last year. We couldn’t have done it without
    you. I shudder to think of how crapped up this beautiful state would be
    if Tmac and his A.G. Herring had won. Why, they’d probably take a page
    out of Obama’s playbook and just dictate laws on their own, and ignore the ones
    that the party didn’t like that day, all the while spitting in the face of the
    General Assembly. Thank you, for supporting them & showed real party

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  • Lawrence Wood

    A truly excellent, well written summary of the actual events at the REAL political level leading up to Cantor’s primary defeat. Someone needs to send a copy to poor George Will currently holding interviews over in the DC beltway “Capital Hill Club” to understand what happened. A cc to the Tea Party National PAC’s might be in order as well as they appear equally clueless as to the storyline that transpired. David Steinberg of PJ Media appeared to be the only paid political contributor who had any idea of what was going on and I think his editor was not too happy with some of his reporting. Again thank you for this effort.

  • Doug Brown

    Another good analysis, where Cantor’s flip flopping on immigration gets a little more credit than other excuses.

  • Ron Benghazi Hedlund

    Maybe I will start following Bearing Drift. Closer to the mark than many other articles.

  • vassar bushmills

    Thanks to the Art V Convention of States debate in Virginia, slating is still a topic of conversation, as the CoS and Michael Farris have just hired a “Sl8er”,Scott Russell as its new Exec Director. Russell still has a case in court challenging his being deposed after he stacked the meeting with Democrats. While Article V may or may not be a good idea, I think the Convention of States group are not the best brokers.

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