Vince Haley has recently announced that he wants to run for RPV Chairman…after he publicly withdrew from the race for RPV Chairman more than two months ago. The circumstances and reasons behind these moves are not easily ascertained, even from the candidate’s own statements, but the real motives behind all of these actions leave major questions about the judgment of the candidate who wants to run the Republican Party of Virginia.
After a successful election cycle in 2015 that saw the GOP retain control of the Virginia Senate, despite the influx of millions of dollars from Terry McAuliffe and Michael Bloomberg, things looked like they were finally going right for the RPV. Chairman Whitbeck had rallied the troops, brought the two wings of the party together in a relative détente, our $200,000+ debt had been paid off, and we were rolling into 2016 strong. All sides seemed to agree that Chairman Whitbeck had done a good job, and nobody was lined up to challenge him.
Then, on the day of the filing deadline to run for RPV Chairman, Vince Haley dropped off his paperwork mere hours before the deadline. He sent out a statement announcing his candidacy which was carried here. In his statement, Haley seemed concerned with supporting candidates in primaries and for party offices that would support the grassroots against the establishment. In his statement he declared, “we need a party run by and for conservatives.” Later in the statement he proclaimed,
I’ll promote candidates that truly believe in our Virginia Republican Creed – and will fight for it as if the fate of our Republic depends on it. Because it does.
So why was John Whitbeck being challenged from the right? Why did Vince wait so late to file his challenge? Why was a man who had never held a local or Congressional district level position in the party suddenly interested in taking the top spot in the Commonwealth? Speculation seems to point to a rift between Whitbeck and Russ Moulton over the vote last year to have a Presidential primary over a convention to bind our National Delegates for the first round of balloting in Cleveland.
Many people have tried to lay the blame for the primary vote at Whitbeck’s feet without any evidence. Ironically, many of Haley’s supporters are also Trump supporters and Trump would have performed very poorly in a convention. Nevertheless, Moulton publicly declared his opposition to Whitbeck in a letter that was published at various blog sites, but he refused to say who he would support as there was no candidate seemingly willing to pick up the banner and lead the charge…until Haley.
So now the race was on, and the campaign to sign up delegates to attend the RPV State Convention began in earnest. Based on my observations it appeared the Whitbeck campaign was having great success on that front. I can only speculate about the Haley campaign’s performance in building support for his race, but a pretty good indication of their success, or lack thereof, can be found in the statement he released on Feb. 20th at VA Right. Just over a month after he declared his candidacy, Vince Haley announced to the world, “Today, I have decided to withdraw from the race for RPV Chairman.” The wording here is very important. More on that later.
In his letter withdrawing from the Chairman’s race, Vince presented a new purpose for his now ended candidacy:
I entered the race at the 11th hour because I firmly opposed the now-rescinded RPV loyalty pledge. I believe that a Virginia Republican Party that is failing to keep its promises has very little standing to demand such an arbitrary pledge of loyalty, especially from its most ardent supporters.
That’s a new one. It is also especially interesting because Mr. Haley had declared himself to be in support of having conventions instead of primaries, and when we hold conventions we require a much more stringent loyalty oath than simply saying, “I am a Republican,” like the now-rescinded statement of affiliation that Haley opposed. In conventions, we require voters to not only declare they are a Republican, but also to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. We do this to discourage Democrats from voting in our nomination processes so that Republicans can pick the Republican nominee. There was only one candidate running for President that was helped by rescinding the statement of affiliation…Donald Trump.
So was the Haley campaign all a political stunt to get the statement of affiliation rescinded in order to help out Donald Trump? Were the goals stated in his original announcement just a smoke screen? Was the reasoning given for his withdrawal just a convenient excuse to end a campaign that was floundering? At this point, nobody seemed to care, as the race was over and Whitbeck was now unopposed for Chairman.
Fast forward another month and we suddenly see complaints popping up from Ron Hedlund, candidate for RPV State Central Committee and Vince Haley supporter, that John Whitbeck is recruiting delegates to sign up for the 7th District Convention in order to keep Hedlund from winning a seat on State Central. John doesn’t deny this charge and even explains his actions in a statement published here.
This situation caused quite a stir on the blogs and on social media, and at one point there was mention of the possibility of Vince Haley “re-activating” his campaign. Sure enough, about three weeks later came yet another announcement from the Haley campaign saying he was back in, this time with a brand new rationale for wanting to run:
How are we supposed to trust that the RPV organization will play a fair role in party races anywhere in the Commonwealth when the RPV Chairman and his Executive Director have inserted themselves in local party elections in an attempt to defeat their disfavored candidates?
This is not the fair calling of balls and strikes by a neutral umpire.
This is picking a side. It’s an abuse of trust.
Now wait just a minute. What happened to the Chairman candidate who said “we need a party run by and for conservatives?” What happened to the Chairman candidate who would “promote candidates that truly believe in our Virginia Republican Creed – and will fight for it as if the fate of our Republic depends on it. Because it does.” It sounds like Vince likes the idea of a Party Chairman picking sides when he is the one doing the picking, but not when it works against him or his supporters.
No matter how you slice it, this latest move looks like nothing more than simple retaliation, and is the third explanation for why he is running. So Vince wants back in the race, only there is a big, gaping hole in his plan. He WITHDREW from the race, remember? He didn’t suspend his campaign. He didn’t place his campaign on hold. He WITHDREW. There are no “take-backs” in campaigns. This is not student body president we’re talking about here. Vince Haley made a decision to withdraw, and decisions have real consequences. Yet, Mr. Haley doesn’t seem to want to take responsibility for his decision (not a good quality in a potential leader).
Upon hearing of his withdrawal from the race RPV Executive Director John Findlay contacted Mr. Haley via email and informed him that Haley’s Declaration of Candidacy was removed, and Haley responded with a one word reply…”Thanks.” That response shows not only recognition, but acceptance, of the fact that Vince Haley was no longer a properly filed candidate for RPV Chairman. He didn’t object. He didn’t say, “hold on there a minute. I might want to re-activate my campaign.” He was acknowledging that he was out of the race…for good.
The Nominations Committee for the RPV State Convention seems to agree. In a unanimous decision they ruled that Haley’s withdrawal from the race was final, and that he is not a qualified candidate for Chairman. Vince knows this, but he seems to be ignoring the facts and instead arguing that the process is rigged against him and accusing Whitbeck and Findlay of “Soviet-style tactics.” When the State convention convenes I am sure that there will be fireworks, and protests, and parliamentary maneuvers designed to try and turn the convention into a circus…but that’s really the point isn’t it? The only reason to pull a stunt like this is to try and tarnish Whitbeck’s reputation, and by extension, the reputation of the entire party.
Vince Haley has tried three times to explain why he wants to be RPV Chairman, and all three times his explanation not only changes, but does not match up with the facts in evidence. His vacillation on this very basic question that all candidates for any office should easily be able to answer raises serious concerns about his motivations. His seeming willingness to allow himself and his campaign to be used as a political chess piece calls his leadership skills into question. Finally, his indecision on whether or not to even run for the office demonstrates a total lack of commitment to the long, thankless hours this position demands.
As a disclaimer, I will say that I have known John Whitbeck for about 15 years now, back when we were both involved in the Loudoun County Young Republicans. I have always known him to be a man of honor and integrity. Over the last few years John has proven his effectiveness as a leader, both as 10th District Chairman and as RPV Chairman. I supported him for RPV Chairman during Mr. Haley’s first run and I still support him today.