By Mark Berg, Chairman, Frederick County Republican Committee
Since the meeting, numerous inaccuracies have been reported by the Winchester Star, our local newspaper. Below is a timeline of relevant events, and then an explanation of proper procedures that were followed at the Mass Meeting…and some that were ignored prior to the Mass Meeting.
The bottom line is that Republicans of Frederick County have had their say in a legitimate, properly run Mass Meeting despite—not because of—the actions of my predecessor.
Last Fall: Some Frederick County Republicans participated in an effort to persuade voters to write-in my name on the general election ballot for House of Delegates District 29. Despite the fact that I did not support or endorse this effort in any way, and that I did not approve the use of my name in that effort, and despite the fact that I did not make myself a candidate, my opponents in the Republican Party of Virginia hierarchy “deemed” me to have resigned my position in official GOP committees. This was based on a provision of the Party Plan which says that:
[A] member of an Official Committee is deemed to have resigned his Committee position if he (a) makes a reportable contribution to and/or (b) allows his name to be publicly used by and/or (c) makes a written or other public statement in support of a candidate in opposition to a Republican nominee in a Virginia General or Special Election, and/or (d) becomes an officer of any other political party.
Importantly, that provision also allows that, “Such member may be re-instated by a majority vote of the other members of the Committee.”
March 3: FCRC Chairman Robbins seeks a ruling from the General Counsel to prevent me from running for Chairman of the FCRC, based on an apparent belief that my having not repudiated the write-in effort constitutes “public support” of a candidate in opposition to a Republican nominee under Article I of the Plan.
March 5: General Counsel Marston replies that “[IF someone is] disqualified from participation in a mass meeting … [he] is also ineligible to serve as a member of a unit committee.” Marston does not opine that those who were deemed to have resigned from the FCRC last year are disqualified from re-entry. Instead, reference is made to an earlier General Counsel ruling which stated the following:
In the ordinary course, the issue would be raised by a challenge to an individual before the credentials committee… There is no bright line test available for what constitutes ‘public support.’ The Plan properly places the decision-making authority at the organizational level best able to observe potentially problematic conduct where it can be evaluated by those knowledgeable about the individual and the circumstances.
In other words, qualifications issues for participants or candidates at a Mass Meeting are handled by the Mass Meeting, not by the unit chairman or anyone else. This is important for what happens next.
March 8: Less than 10 hours before the FCRC Mass Meeting, Unit Chairman Robbins sends an email to me and others stating as follows:
[E]ach of you is subject to a four-year disqualification from all Republican Party activities. This includes tonight’s FCRC Mass Meeting. While the event is open to the public, none of you will be issued credentials to be seated on the meeting floor. You will not be issued ballots for voting. You will not be recognized by the Mass Meeting Chair, and your names will not be put forward in nomination for any position, including FCRC Chair.
If you disagree with this action, your appeals must be noted to the Tenth District within 30 days.”
March 8: Mass Meeting: When I attempt to register at the Mass Meeting, the Credential Committee person to whom I spoke tells me to go see Robbins, who then reiterates that I am disqualified. The Credentials Committee person to whom I spoke wouldn’t say whether the Committee had made such a determination, but indicated they would follow Robbins’ lead in disqualifying me and others.
Business of the Mass Meeting: Robbins opened the meeting and recognized a member to nominate for temporary chairman of the Mass Meeting Richard Shickle. Mr. Shickle was not elected. After ignoring attempts to nominate Shawn Graber for temporary chairman, a second candidate (Del. Chris Collins) was nominated and also defeated. After much consternation, Robbins finally relented and recognized the nomination of Shawn Graber, who then won election as temporary chairman.
Graber then appointed temporary committees (Credentials, Rules, Nominations). After a brief recess, the temporary Credentials Committee made its report, adding the individuals excluded by Robbins back to the list of credentialed participants.
During deliberations on whether to adopt the Credentials Committee report, Robbins argued that those who were deemed to have resigned in 2015 are disqualified from participation for four years—a point of view which he seems to have persuaded many to share. This was despite the General Counsel’s clear guidance that it was not the Unit Chairman’s decision to make, and another General Counsel ruling making clear that Robbins’ alleged basis for this (a signed statement I made that had nothing to do with the nomination for HoD District 29) could not form the basis for any disqualification. The Mass Meeting rejected Robbins’ arguments, and voted to seat those whom he had attempted to unilaterally exclude.
The Rules Committee then made its report, which was adopted by the Mass Meeting, making the temporary committees permanent.
The Nominations Committee then reported that the state and district delegate candidates listed on the pre-printed ballot were credentialed, and that a number of additional individuals were properly qualified and pre-filed. The assembly made further no changes to the list of candidates. Because the number of qualified delegate candidates was less than the number of delegates allowed, all were deemed elected.
The Nominations Committee also reported that there were two qualified and properly pre-filed candidates for FCRC Chairman, me and Al Sibert. Both of us gave brief speeches. Just prior to the vote for Unit Chairman, Chairman Graber announced that everyone would have to vacate the building because someone had called the Sheriff’s office with some type of complaint.
The vote took place by secret ballot per the Rules of the Mass Meeting. I was elected by a very large majority of the voting members the Mass Meeting. Further, even though several people had left the meeting by this point, the number of votes cast for me nonetheless constituted an absolute majority of all those who had registered for the meeting. Several Sheriff’s Deputies and did arrive and check out the situation.
Post-adjournment: The question of who called the Sheriff’s Office was on many people’s minds. Several people suggested a janitor had been asked by someone to call the Sheriff, and that the janitor refused to do so. Several also claimed to know who had called, and the name mentioned was one of those members of the “Mass Meeting Steering Committee.” A public school official reportedly confirmed that no school official or employee made that call that night, but did not want to get involved in the whole affair.
There has been quite a bit written about the Mass Meeting, and probably even more about a possible appeal by Mr. Robbins and about the process of doing that. Some of this seems to be written simply to deceive or confuse the reader, such as the assertion that the 10th District Committee will handle any contest filed about the mass meeting. As I have explained to the Winchester Star and others, any contest filed by Andy Robbins or others about the Mass Meeting would go in the first instance to the FCRC, and only then could it be appealed to the 10th District Committee, pursuant to Article X of the Party Plan.
Yet the disinformation continues.
What we just witnessed was an effort by Robbins and his allies to shoehorn an automatic resignation last year (which, according to the Plan is capable of simple reinstatement) into a four-year ban on participation in Republican Party functions, all without pausing to allow anyone but Robbins to have a say in the matter.
The fact is, under the Plan and all applicable legal guidance, Frederick County Republicans are the ones given the power to make any such determination. They have now spoken, and have roundly rejected the machinations of those who would seek to exclude those holding opposing viewpoints from our Party.
I fully expect that the establishment, anti-conservative faction—both locally and on up to the district and state level—will do anything to remain in power. I will continue to fight their attempts to quash the grassroots efforts to be heard and affect positive change. I intend to continue to stand up for what is right, for the Rule of Law, and for the voters who have put up with an elite ruling political class for too long.
As has been expressed by many great thinkers, including Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”