6th District GOP ‘Resisters’ Fight More for Turf than Candidates

The turf war continues in the Sixth Congressional District after Republicans saw Scott Sayre soundly defeated as chair at the May 19 district convention by challenger Jennifer Brown.

In the months since, Sayre supporters, who make up two-thirds of the Sixth District Republican committee that is chaired by Ms. Brown, continue to battle. Let’s call them the 6th District Resisters, or “Resisters” for short.

There’s nothing unusual about turf wars in politics. Sometimes, however, the zeal for power, as in the case of the Resisters, overshadows the intended purpose of GOP leadership: building committees, recruiting candidates, and working to elect Republicans.

While the Resisters prowl the district trying to undermine committees and the chairwoman, they may want to pay more attention to their own committees.

At the last Waynesboro GOP meeting, only four people showed up, missing the needed seven for a quorum (and that count included the chair and his wife). Staunton had a total of nine people at their last meeting — seven plus the chair and his wife.

Meanwhile, Augusta County, dealing with a chairman who is one of the Resisters, has brought in members the past three months including 10 new members in August, and continues to recruit folks from the community to build the committee. It had a presence in the Independence Day parade in July, staffed the county fair in August, has set up a campaign headquarters in September, is working with candidates at local events, and has built a positive membership majority while adding officers to the executive committee.

At May’s Sixth District convention, Ms. Brown carried 10 of the district’s 17 units, and even won the majority of support from members of the Augusta County Republican Committee (ACRC) despite the fact its leadership was firmly in the Sayre-Dunbar camp. In fact, only six of the 17 unit chairs in the Sixth were pro-Brown. It was the grassroots who carried Jennifer Brown convincingly to victory.

Since her win, Ms. Brown has encountered continued undermining from the Resisters beginning with the very first 6th District meeting that she chaired in Harrisonburg. At that meeting, the Resisters blindsided the chair and other members with a motion to drain the district treasury of up to $30,000.

In Augusta County, the Resisters have been showing up en masse to watch over executive committee and unit meetings. At the August ACRC meeting, Roanoke City Republican Committee Chairman Charlie Nave very visibly sat at the front of the room recording the meeting while audibly sighing heavily and loudly when motions were made and passed that he obviously disagreed with.

Nave, who became the Roanoke City Committee chair in 2016, was highlighted at the time of his election by the Roanoke Times that reported, “Nave vowed to unite the party and work with all Republicans regardless of ideology.” Sowing discontent within the Sixth District is not a definition of “unity.”

During the August ACRC executive committee meeting, Steve Troxel from Lynchburg and Matt Fitzgerald from Staunton showed up to listen in. Troxel had also been at the previous month’s executive meeting. However, both Fitzergald and Troxel had to leave the room when the committee went into closed session. In the full committee meeting, Troxel, Fitzgerald, and Nave were joined by Sixth District Committee members Anne Fitzgerald and her two young children, and Sixth District Treasurer Donna Moser.

In a show of support for the new chairwoman who is under unrelenting siege, the Augusta County GOP passed a motion in support of Ms. Brown. The motion also put Chairman Ken Elkins on notice that he must consult and advise the committee immediately if he becomes aware of attempts to remove, sanction, or embarrass Ms. Brown.

That same week the Rockbridge Area Republicans likewise publicly voted their support for the chairwoman.

It’s been a long time but finally there is positive change in the air in western Virginia’s Republican circles even as the Resisters prowl the Sixth in their continuing turf war.