By Isaiah Knight and Christian Raymond
In a recent article, author Dianne Wyss made strong personal attacks on two Republican women, Patsy Walker and Jennifer Brown (“Fool me Twice – Patsy Walker, Jennifer Brown and the Establishment GOP Power Grab,” Bull Elephant).
Patsy Walker is the newly elected Virginia Federation of Republican Women representative on the 6th District Committee, and Jennifer Brown is a candidate for Chair of the 6th District Committee.
There are four key attacks that Mrs. Wyss uses in her article:
1) Patsy Walker is “under-qualified … using her family’s political muscle to gain power.”
2) Jennifer Brown is an “under-qualified consort of a power man.”
3) Walker and Brown are “pawns in an attempt to con women” to support the Establishment.
4) Walker and Brown “have been actively disrespectful to the grassroots.”
The article concludes with a call to support the incumbent chairman, Scott Sayre.
We will address points 3 and 4 together, then points 1 and 2 together, followed by our call to sanity and the rebuilding of burnt bridges in the 6th District.
First rebuttal: Walker and Brown are “pawns in an attempt to con women” and “have been actively disrespectful to the grassroots.”
In our combined experiences, we have worked with the Lynchburg City Republican Committee for about three years and have seen both Patsy and Wendell Walker in action.
Mr. Walker recently won the Chairmanship of the Lynchburg City Committee. Immediately, he called for the young people in the committee to join or get involved with the local College Republican and Young Republican clubs. Mrs. Walker took the time to attend recent Young Republican meetings. They both took time a few weeks ago to travel to the U.S. Senate primary debate that we co-hosted in Appomattox County.
Are these actions of people who are “disrespectful of the grassroots”? Are these actions of the GOP establishment trying to co-opt our Young Republican club? We strongly believe that they are not. We are happy to say that our YR club has an excellent working relationship with the local GOP Committees, especially Lynchburg City. How? Because we have a mutual respect for each other. Why? Because we are all Republicans fighting for a common goal.
We may disagree at times during primary battles, but in the end we work together to win and advance the Republican message of constitutional liberty and representational government.
As for Ms. Brown, we first met her in January when she attended our annual YR club business meeting. We were both extremely impressed and grateful for her attendance. Why would Ms. Brown bother to travel halfway across the district to attend a meeting where half of the attendees were from the 5th District? Is it because of some deep-rooted disrespect of the grassroots? Is it because she wanted to co-opt our YR club to endorse her?
No. She came to hear our issues, our concerns, our desires for the 6th District, and she has attended all of our events since (including an informal social event with the Roanoke Valley Young Republicans). Her positivity and idea-centric message was very refreshing.
To say that Ms. Brown is disrespectful to the grassroots would be funny if it wasn’t so offensive, especially considering the fact that the current chairman, Scott Sayre, has not attended nor sent a representative to a single Lynchburg Area YR meeting or social gathering since first being elected to that office (even after personal email invitations to do so).
Second rebuttal: Walker and Brown are “under-qualified” and using their significant others to advance in power.
Everytime someone questions the qualifications of a candidate, one must ask, “What are the actual qualifications or prerequisites for the office that said candidate is seeking?”
In both Mrs. Walker’s and Ms. Brown’s cases, being accessible and being active within the grassroots is the common-denominator and positive quality to both of them. Both of these women have gone out of their way over the years to attend meetings and events to advance Republican principles. What more can a Republican activist ask for?
The author of the op-ed attack piece asks questions about Ms. Brown and her campaign. “Does she have a job — she has been in school so long that one suspects her occupation is ‘professional student’? How is she spending the money she is fundraising? How will she fund her chairmanship – will the 6th District Republicans fund her? She has not been a Unit Chair or an RW President, so what is her management experience?”
Since it seems that the author did not contact Ms. Brown directly in order to answer these questions, we will let Ms. Brown respond in her own words:
“I worked for a law firm full time, was the PR Director for a non-profit organization while also receiving my MBA. Upon entering law school, students were not allowed to work more than 12 hours per week while studying full time, so I chose to focus on my studies. Moving back to Rockingham County, I took time off to study for the bar and help my mother take care of my grandmother.
“I’ve served on the boards of many clubs and organizations including one that I co-founded, scheduling all speakers and activities while maintaining the budget in order to make sure the next EC had money. I was also on the advisory board with Regent Law’s faculty and staff regarding student life.
“My most recent experience is managing policy and fundraising for a non-profit organization. Currently I manage social media for Rockingham County, Harrisonburg City, and Republican Women of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County, and am the Communications Chair of Rockingham County as well as a member of the PR and Events Committees with the Republican Women of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County.”
Being a Unit Chair or Republican Women President is not a prerequisite for Committee leadership per the RPV Party Plan or any Republican bylaws anywhere. To imply that it were is almost as bad as saying that President Trump should have been a Governor before running for President. This is an extremely illogical argument and goes against the grassroots-based model of leadership that Ms. Brown has been advocating throughout the 6th District.
To summarize: the Bull Elephant op-ed is just another example of the bridge burning that, unfortunately, has become the norm in 6th District politics.
Instead of contrasting policy and beliefs, activists have resorted to personal attacks that would make even Democrats blush. Some may say, “It’s just politics, so what’s a few bridges if we win.” We disagree with that assessment. “It’s just politics” suggests that politics is a neutral action isolated from the day-to-day reputation of the Republican Party as a whole and the reputations of the activists within the Party.
What happens in the 6th District will and has affected the Party elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The 6th District had an opportunity to show the world how a proper convention and a civil debate of ideas looks.
Regardless of who threw the first stone, the napalming of bridges via slanderous personal attacks was uncalled for. Therefore, we, as two mere grassroots activists within this grand political experiment called The Republican Party, are calling for a cease and desist of all personal attacks in the few remaining days left before the convention on Saturday.
This plea for sanity should have happened long ago and, as a result, the napalming of bridges has already been done. However, we strongly believe that rebuilding is possible. Furthermore, we believe that Jennifer M. Brown is and has consistently tried to be such a bridge builder within 6th District committees, and both she and Mrs. Patsy Walker are owed an apology for the vicious op-ed attack on the Bull Elephant.
We believe that Jennifer will do an excellent job as next 6th District Committee Chair and look forward, as the next generation of grassroots activists, to working with her in the future to advance the Republican message of constitutional liberty and representational government.
Regardless of who you are supporting for Congress, please join us in rebuilding burnt bridges so we can start advancing this Party and the principles of Republicanism. Let’s elect Jennifer Brown as Chair this Saturday, May 19, at the 6th District Convention and rebuild this fractured party.
This op-ed was jointly written by Isaiah Knight, current Chairman, and Christian Raymond, past chairman and current Executive Director of the Lynchburg Area Young Republicans. The club includes three areas of the 6th District: Lynchburg City, Amherst County, and Bedford County.
Cover graphic by Frits Ahlefeldt