Whitbeck responds to Stimpson accusations

Virginia’s political junkies have been buzzing this week over a tough fundraising piece from the Susan Stimpson campaign that accuses the RPV’s professional staff of picking sides in the primary contest between Stimpson and House Speaker Bill Howell. A portion of the text reads:

In the dark of night, without consulting the State Central Committee, staff of the Republican Party of Virginia has weighed into a nomination contest and effectively endorsed the chief architect of every tax hike in Virginia in the last decade, Speaker Bill Howell, all in violation of Party rules.

The Stimpson mailer included this image:

Stimpson mailer
But let’s get back to the text…

My sources tell me, and I believe them, that our new Chairman had no idea the Executive Director of RPV authorized and paid for this mail piece. Think about that. Staff took it upon themselves to violate the rules of the State Party and spend money to support a tax hiking incumbent’s re-election effort during the nomination fight.

So it’s a swipe at Shaun Kenney, which seems to have become something of a past time in certain quarters and certainly earns him a place among the hobgoblins.

All of this boiled over just as John Whitbeck took over as the new RPV chairman. He took to his Facebook page to offer Mrs. Stimpson a very public, and very pointed, rebuttal:

A response to Susan Stimpson:


Yesterday you alleged that RPV staff acted to secretly support a candidate in a nominating process. These allegations are not true.

As you know, the RPV has not endorsed either candidate in your primary and I have said repeatedly that neither I nor the Party will pick sides in a nominating process during my tenure. I vehemently reject your assertion that donations to the Republican Party will go to support tax increases. I have said that the RPV must stand for something, and in this case, that “something” is the Virginia Republican Creed. Any donations from any source will be put towards that effort.

As you are aware, the RPV has sent out legislative district surveys for years. These surveys aren’t about getting anyone elected, they are about holding elected officials accountable. These mail pieces that ask constituents where they stand on issues. We want our GOP leaders to be responsive to their districts — that’s why we send them to Richmond. It may be easy for a legislator to ignore a phone call or email, but when RPV brings the opinions of several hundred constituents to a legislative office at one time (prior to the legislative session, no less) the impact is unmistakable.

I think your email should have contained the entire survey so I’ve attached the whole image below.

Not every legislator works with RPV on this project. The ones that do meet a strict standard. No mail is sent after the General Assembly Session convenes, and this particular mailing met that standard despite the post office delivering it several weeks late. The mailers contain no electioneering material, and they’re returned to RPV. That ensures that they will wind up in the hands of the legislators in question, and not be shunted off to some third party to harvest email addresses. Completed surveys are delivered during the General Assembly session for a reason — so our GOP members will have the thoughts and concerns of their voters in front of them when it matters most: while they’re casting votes.

While I disagree with your characterizations and the wrong information in your email, we will be revisiting existing standards for mail at our next Executive Committee meeting next week.

John Whitbeck, Chairman
Republican Party of Virginia

survey image

One might think this would put the matter to rest, but, of course, it will not. And if you have read the partisans commenting on Whitbeck’s post, the search for wrongdoing continues unabated.

It bears repeating that all elected Republicans are able to mail non-advocacy pieces like this under the RPV umbrella. And all the electeds pay for the cost of the mailings. RPV doesn’t make money off these mailings, and it certainly doesn’t use member contributions to pay for them. Accusations such as those Stimpson made, then, aren’t merely baseless, they are lies.

And that’s where the real trouble for her campaign begins. She is alienating supporters and donors, something no challenger’s campaign can afford to do.

Good direct marketing fundamentals allow strongly worded hooks and vivid imagery to get someone’s attention. But baseless accusations and falsehoods undermine everything…not to mention creating new problems. The Post Office frowns on deceptive mailers. The Board of Elections does, too. Pushing a tough line is one thing. Pushing a false one? The nice man from the government may have some questions for you. And bring your checkbook, just in case.

The only thing that mitigates Stimpson’s self-inflicted wounds is that the actual vote is still months away. Voters may have forgotten all about it by then.

She had best hope so.

And one more thing to remember…the winner of the Howell/Stimpson contest won’t change the balance of power in the House. Except a Howell defeat could very well lead to Kirk Cox becoming the next Speaker.

There is no hint of velvet in his gloves.

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