Rules Are Rules … Until They Do Not Apply?

“The Ballad of Jed Clampet Nick Collette”

Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed Nick
A political consultant, common sense? Not a lick
And then one day he was thinkin’ ‘bout control,
And up through his mind hatched a plan, he’s on a roll.

Chairmanship that is, Hanover gold, with the tea.

Well the first thing you know Dale’s booted from the Chair,
The committee folk said, “Nick, shouldn’t you go there?”
They said, “The Unit’s Chair is the place you ought to be”
So they stacked up the unit so any newbie could not see…

Broken rules, that is. Not a care … who it hurts.

My father and Ralph Stanley played the banjo for the opening of The Beverly Hillbillies way, way back, and this saga made me think of that song. And “Nick” is Mr. Nick Collette, Chairman of the Hanover County Republican Committee.

Before I begin, just so it is fully disclosed and in case anyone wonders why I would take time to write about a professional political operative that I have never met?

Well, this isn’t personal.

When I see something that I believe is plainly wrong and beneath the most basic standard of decency, sometimes I am compelled to show it how I see it. This is one of those occasions.

I certainly do not begrudge anyone their livelihood. I don’t go after people to attack their jobs.

No, this is about irony, and what I consider to be right versus DAMN WRONG. My apologies in advance to anyone who does not appreciate my thoughts on the subject.

Mr. Collette must be an interesting and very busy fellow. He is not only the chairman of the Hanover County Republican Committee (HCRC), he is a professional political consultant and apparently quite the opinionated writer. But if the HCRC now believes it is appropriate for its chairman to send a purposely deceiving letter to the editor of a local paper, attacking and mocking one individual because of his election day plans, local politics is sinking to a new low.

To explain why his letter became important enough to bother giving it any attention at all, I should first unpack the link between Mr. Collette and his HCRC work, the HCRC’s own by-laws, and his professional undertakings.

It is important for a complete understanding of how politics has become so toxic that someone within the leadership structure of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) could be willing to throw integrity and ethics out the window to paint a picture the way he wants you to see it, rather than the way it really is.

As I mentioned above, Mr. Collette is Chairman of the HCRC. The HCRC By-Laws (to the right of the screen under “Rules and Bylaws”) include a specific provision that is being totally ignored by those entrusted to uphold them:

ARTICLE V – Elected and Appointed Officers

SECTION A: Elected Officers – General

The elected officers of the County Committee shall be:

1. Chairman,

No ex officio members, paid members of campaign staffs, or the paid staff of the Republican Party of Virginia shall be eligible to hold these offices.

Alright, why does this matter? Well, obviously the officers of the committee want to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That is practical and necessary; no problem, right?

Well … wrong. Specifically, in addition to the foregoing, the bylaws state:

SECTION C: Duties of Other Elected Officers

1. The County Chairman shall be responsible for the general execution and implementation of the programs and policies of the County Committee commensurate with achieving the goals of the Party Plan.

 In addition, the County Chairman shall:

b. Represent the County Committee on the appropriate Republican

Congressional District Committee (During any 10-year period when the county is in more than one Congressional District, the County Chairman shall serve on the Congressional District Committee of his residence and will appoint a County Committee member who resides in the other district to serve on its Congressional District Committee); …

Without rehashing the last year of drama that led Mr. Collette to be HCRC Chairman, I’ll leave it with this: Mr. Collette is serving as Chairman.

The RPV is structured to give local units and district chairpersons a large amount of responsibility and an equally large amount of power over everything that elected representatives need, prior to election day, to get elected. Just one unrelated example would be the current hit-job on Congressman Denver Riggleman from a few folks in the 5th Congressional District. See here, and  here, and  here.

Point being that there are RPV committee chairpersons who seem to be more and more willing to throw anyone under the bus if it means getting what they want. Sometimes what they want is to replace elected officials. In and of itself, that is fine. However, when they start using their positions to manipulate committees and the public, they are going into dangerous territory by treating their own rules as if they are not bound by them.

And that is where we travel back to the story of The Man Named Nick.

Based on the HCRC by-laws, one could argue that Mr. Collette was never eligible to stand for election as Chairman. Actually, someone is making that very point. Mr. Hubbard is the Chairman of the King William County Republican Committee. He has written a letter to the Chairman of the 1st Congressional District, Mr. Robert Watson, that is in “Re: Illegitimacy of the Chairmanship of Nick Collette.” His opening paragraph conveys the serious nature of his concerns:

“I am writing you today in response to a situation that demands your immediate attention and resolution. It has become apparent to a majority of the GOP faithful that our governing Party Plan and ensuing bylaws ratified by the committees of the RPV have no force.

“Time and time again the Hanover committee and the 1st District Republican Committee have violated the Party Plan, their respective bylaws, and Roberts Rules of Order. As a duly elected Chairman and rightful member of the 1st District Republican Committee, I call on you today to invalidate the Chairmanship of Nick Collette and at a time certain after the November 5, 2019, General election, call for a mass meeting to reconstitute the Hanover GOP committee.” 

He is saying the Hanover unit is dysfunctional, and not operating under any set of rules. He is saying the 1st CDC has a responsibility. But why does it matter?

Apparently, Mr. Colette is a paid political operative to at least two different campaigns.

1. Bob Matson is running for Henrico Sheriff: Nick Collette is listed as a Campaign Consultant or Manager multiple times in 2019.

2. Suzanne Fox is running for State Senate: Nick Collette is listed as collecting $8500.00 in 2019.

I am making no attempt to paint either of these candidates in a negative light. This is not about them, or their ability. This is about what I see as a blatant conflict by Mr. Collette — a conflict of HCRC governing documents, a conflict with what the RPV proclaims to stand for, and a conflict with every value anyone serving in any official capacity, regardless of party, should hold as basic standards of right … and DAMN WRONG.

Remember the clause in the bylaws that states:

No ex officio members, paid members of campaign staffs, or the paid staff of the Republican Party of Virginia shall be eligible to hold these offices.”

I suppose that section of the HCRC by-laws applies to everyone except Mr. Collette.

HCRC is a committee. If the committee does not hold itself and its own executives to a basic standard of following its own rules, shame on them. But in my opinion, this is where Mr. Collette goes from a self-serving political hack to proving to the world that he really is.

A few weeks ago a gentleman wrote a letter to the editor of the Mechanicsville Local explaining how he was planning to vote for the next Delegate in the 97th House District in Virginia. He felt disenfranchised with the way the 97th HOD nomination method was handled. He does not appreciate watching his nomination vote thrown in a trash can. He also didn’t seem to appreciate the underhanded way the 97th Legislative District Committee operated. He explained that, on November 5th, he was going to write in CHRIS PEACE.

This is his right as an American. Why would anyone bother to make a stink about a letter one gentleman wrote to a local paper expressing his views and telling people how he was planning to vote? Especially when the stink was intellectually dishonest at best, and was made by the Chairman of the HCRC?

I personally believe it is because Mr. Collette’s nominee isn’t very popular. Anyhoo…

Hells bells! Apparently, Mr. Collette had to do something! So what does he do (other than give free publicity to one gentleman’s write-in effort for CHRIS PEACE)? He uses his position as chair of the HCRC and writes a letter, carefully designed to leave a false impression on anyone who reads it. He writes:

“… the comparison was likely lost on many of those who read the letter because Del. Peace was defeated by more than 90% in his re-election bid earlier this year, a resounding defeat to a politician that lost touch with his constituents.”

Now for the truth that Mr. Collette so carefully excluded. Mr. Collette is referring to 90 percent of an event that the RPV had declared a “Wyatt Rally” on the day it was held. Out of ALL THREE COUNTIES IN THE 97th HOD, only 486 people attended the event Mr. Collette is referencing in his letter.

Ninety percent of 486 is 437.

So, Mr. Collette, as Chairman of the HCRC, chose to sign a letter praising the fact that, of ALL OF THE VOTERS IN THE 97th HOD District, 437 was a number to brag about … a “resounding defeat.” But he also neglected to mention that there were two nomination contests in the 97th HOD District. There was also a Canvass on June 1, 2019, that was an official RPV event on the day it was held.

From the 97th District, 2,448 people (Hanover, New Kent, and King William counties) participated in the Canvass — the canvass that was declared void only after the fact by 54 people on the State Central Committee. (Who, I believe, were not all fully and adequately briefed on the entire saga.)

In that contestCHRIS PEACE won with 2,271 votes (92.8%) out of 2,448.

Hmm. The GOP candidate for the 97th HOD district was decided by 54 individuals on a committee, with two different nomination contests with vote totals of 437 versus 2,271 … in a district with thousands of registered voters who favor the Elephant Clan. And the 54 chose the 437.  Think about that. Now think about how much control the average individual does NOT have over who represents them … in America.

But Mr. Collette doesn’t bother to make note of the difference between 437 and 2,271, or explain how he helped invalidate the canvass. Two paragraphs later, he says:

“The fact is more than 90% of Republican voters supported Del. Peace’s primary challenger, …”

That seems quite similar to the paragraph above, no?

And as if his other statements were not bad enough, he dove headfirst into bullshit land:

… and this effort to write him in on the November ballot is nothing more than an attempt to elect the fringe left Democrat who belongs to the same party as national figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, who are pushing policies that include a “Green New Deal,” a $15 minimum wage that will close small businesses, and the complete destruction of the Second Amendment.”

“… These supporters of Del. Peace are not Republicans, …”

Mr. Collette is saying that the 2,271 people who voted for CHRIS PEACE in the only relevant (at the time it was held) nomination contest ARE AIDING THE DEMOCRATS? Yes, Mr. Collette is saying that Hanover, New Kent, and King William are bastions of blue … and if you support Delegate CHRIS PEACE, you are too.

Knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway is unethical, immoral, and should be beneath anyone in Virginia politics. If the RPV and/or others within its ranks or on its committees refuse to address this type of behavior, something needs to change. When people in leadership do not follow their own rules, there is no leadership. I am grateful there are still folks like Mr. Hubbard willing to step up.

Mr. Hubbard’s letter is instructive and appropriate, Mr. Collette. It’s time to be a man, rather than trying to act like the French Governess in The Beverly Hillbillies.