Last Saturday’s State Central Committee meeting in Staunton demonstrated how dysfunctional the Republican Party of Virginia has become.
All of these dysfunctions were on display on Saturday. Let’s look at a just a few.
1. Transparency – Good luck finding minutes of State Central Committee meetings online. Good luck finding all of the proposals voted on or discussed, or who held proxies for whom. None of that information is publicly available. The finance section of the meeting was closed to the public and the press, and the guests were ushered out of the room. This was unnecessary, given that the party’s finances are public record. Everyone is entitled to see them, and they will see them at the end of the next campaign finance filing period. Why hide what’s happening now? Given the howling some had about transparency later in the meeting, it would be nice to see SCC demonstrate a little itself.
2. The 24th Senate District lawsuit – Needless to say, this is another situation where RPV wants to put it’s thumb on the scale when it comes to nominations. Lynn Mitchell has a good write-up on this issue at her site.
3. Proxies – You can’t send a proxy to vote for you in Congress or the General Assembly. Yet State Central Committee members can and did send proxies to vote at this State Central meeting. Russ Moulton, architect of the convention scheme and de facto leader of the so-called “Conservative Fellowship” is not a SCC member, but you wouldn’t have known that on Saturday, as he was wielding a proxy. Waverly Woods, Chair of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, carried another. Neither are elected SCC members, yet they voted on Saturday next to people who were elected to do so. They are accountable to no one, won’t be on a ballot next year for reelection, and other than this article will probably never be questioned as to their votes.
That’s not the worst with proxies. Pete Snyder, RPV’s finance chair, couldn’t make the meeting and gave a proxy to Chairman Whitbeck, who proceeded to give that proxy to Spike Williams of Fairfax County. For those who don’t know Spike, he’s a three time candidate for public office, two time general election loser – he came in third in a four way race for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors running as an independent, and then proceeded to lose for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors (after abandoning a State Senate run) in a 25 point blow out to Sharon Bulova where he was out-raised ten to one. Why did he get to wield Pete Snyder’s proxy? We can only speculate, but his friendship to John Whitbeck is no secret. Williams likely voted for a convention, so it would be interesting to know what Pete Snyder’s stand was on the issue – if he was supporting a primary, Williams likely voted against his wishes. Also of note, both Williams and Snyder are Fairfax County residents and active with the Fairfax County Republican Committee (FCRC) who in a straw poll, as noted by Keith Damon, voted 80%-20% in favor of a primary. Further, FCRC Unit Chair Matt Ames sent a letter to Chairman Whitbeck in support of a primary. Those of us in Fairfax County are curious as to how Spike Williams voted and if it was in line with Pete Snyder’s position (both unknown at this time).
Is that what we want? Proxies who can vote contrary to the wishes of the person who actually holds the seat that’s earned a vote?
The RPV Party plan should be amended to bar proxy voting at SCC. After all, if you care enough, you’ll find a way to make the meeting. Right?
4. The “Secret Ballot” vote – Taking a secret ballot on the convention v. primary issue wasn’t going to win anybody a chapter in a modern version of Profiles in Courage. At the same time, I can understand why those who supported the secret ballot did so. Those who were on record supporting a primary or a convention had nothing to fear. Those who intended to switch their vote from primary to convention had everything to fear, and given the final outcome of the vote, it was clear that a good number of SCC members who had voted in 2013 for a convention changed their votes this time around. Clearly, the “Conservative Fellowship” didn’t see that coming.
Unlike some of the loudest voices demanding an open, roll call vote, I am not a hypocrite. I want transparency all the time, and I would have supported an open roll call vote. I’m not afraid to defend what I believe in, and I’m used to taking shots from the same folks who will gleefully assist in the witch hunt that has already started.
As I’ve noted on social media, given how sacred these same people have claimed the secret ballot is – whether for union organizing elections or for voting for the federal Speaker of the House, their claims of wanting an open vote now are baldly hypocritical.
5. The presidential Primary vs. Convention vote – While I’m pleased with the final outcome – sanity prevailed – I am still disappointed by how close the vote was. 42-39, with one abstention. We’re only talking three votes here between sanity and insanity. To all who voted for a primary – thank you from the grassroots. You did the right thing and you should be commended for it.
Some of the comments made in support of a convention are mind boggling. There were still claims about how difficult it is to get on the Virginia primary ballot, despite the General Assembly halving the petition signature requirements after the 2012 debacle. When it was brought up that a statewide convention could see in excess of 25,000 activists – and no venues that could accommodate those kinds of numbers – the question was posited “how do we keep the number of participants below 14,000?”
That’s nuts. We win elections by addition, not subtraction. The more folks who participate, the better. Yet here was SCC, actively musing about how to limit how many Republicans could participate in the most important nominating process we ever go through. It boggles the mind. Hopefully, before next year’s conventions, we can find a Hercules to clean out the Augean stables that State Central has become.
By the end of the day, common sense and inclusion prevailed – barely – over the oligarchs. I wish I could take solace in that fact, but I can’t. The night before the SCC meeting, the Democrats held a massive fundraiser in Fairfax County, where – joined by Hillary Clinton and Governor McAuliffe – they raised $1 million for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Yes, that’s right – DPVA raised in one night four times what it took us three months to raise.
Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?