First it was the travesty this week in Virginia Beach, where Sen. Frank Wagner disenfranchised about 1,000 people in favor of himself and 31 of his closest friends. Now, we hear similar stunts are on the way in Henrico and other jurisdictions, engineered by the same people behind Sen. Wagner’s campaign.
A much broader effort is underway to replace certain GOP congressional district chairmen than has previously been made public, sources close to multiple district chairman elections have told The Bull Elephant. In the race for Republican Second District Chairman, current chairman Gary Byler is stepping down. Sen. Frank Wagner’s so-called “slating” strategy was aimed at defeating Byler’s endorsed successor, Curtis Colgate. As has been reported elsewhere, Wagner’s effort to disenfranchise almost all of the people who had registered to become delegates to the Second District convention was lent a great deal of assistance from his fellow elected Republicans in the Virginia Beach area.
What has not been reported is the fact that the ground game there was largely run by paid staff, and that these and other paid staffers are also being deployed in a coordinated effort to undermine the grassroots in the Third District, like they did in the Second. This effort is aimed at unseating incumbent Third District Chairman Christopher Stearns. According to our sources, the organization behind this is planning to conduct a similar effort to slate just a handful of delegates from Henrico County to the Third District convention, in an effort to rob Stearns of crucial votes. We have also heard rumors of similar efforts elsewhere in the Third, including Richmond City and Portsmouth.
Folks, this has got to stop. The fight bubbling beneath the surface of this rush to disenfranchise fellow Republicans is, as always, the debate over using conventions versus primaries to select our nominees. But do not be distracted by that. It does not matter where you stand in that debate. On this issue of slating there can be no reasonable difference of opinion: Slating is evil. Not only is the immediate effect the unconscionable disenfranchisement of fellow Republicans, it does real long term damage to our party, our candidates, and our elected officials.
When powerful elected Republicans unleash funding and campaign machinery to defeat other Republicans at all costs—using the absolute worst slash-and-burn tactics—they undermine the very trust and confidence of the public upon which they depend to get themselves re-elected, and to get their agenda enacted. How many allies will Sen. Wagner have among conservatives going forward? Perhaps he’ll still have many, but he’ll have a lot fewer now, and a whole lot of entrenched suspicion of him and his motives on everything he does. The same holds true for those now paying these staffers to repeat Sen. Wagner’s huge mistake on a larger scale: their road forward to bigger and better things will be littered with landmines they themselves will have lain. It doesn’t have to be this way.
And to those like my friend Brian Schoeneman who think the episode in Virginia Beach performs the useful service of demonstrating how flawed party processes are (and thus why they should not be relied on for anything as important as selecting a candidate), you’re wrong. All that this intentional corruption of the process demonstrates is that some people are willing to let their party crash and burn in a fireball of division and mutual suspicion, so long as it serves their own narrow, short-sighted interests. It must stop.