There was mass confusion, shouting between the two camps, a contested temporary chair, an army of angry activists determined to stop the apparent slating effort, a disorganized process, a defeated establishment, and an embarrassed Ray Allen. It was bedlam!!!! Well, it was like that two years ago, at least.
The 2016 Henrico GOP Mass Meeting was a much different, better organized, and much more polite affair. Considering the circumstances surrounding the hotly contested Unit Chairman’s race, and that there were 667 credentialed participants, that was no small feat.
I credit the two candidates for chairman, Eddie Whitlock and Jim Herring, as well as outgoing Chair Don Boswell for pre-negotiating every possible point that could have become a contested issue, well, other than who would actually win. Also, there’s a distinct possibility that all attendees were in better moods because both campaigns provided dinner for their supporters onsite before the meeting gaveled to order.
Gone was Ray Allen‘s panicked barking of orders as Establishment Czar of the 7th District and the visible acrimony between the sides from the 2014 Mass Meeting. Instead, you had Brett Feinstein and Peter Foster deftly and politely managing logistics for the Whitlock Team while their candidate greeted supporters. Several members of the “Brat Pack” genially and skillfully handled similar roles for Jim Herring while he greeted his supporters.
The meeting gaveled to order around 7:15pm. Don Boswell, the outgoing Henrico GOP chairman, served as Mass Meeting Chairman. The various committees were appointed and they gave their reports without incident. Jim Herring and Eddie Whitlock gave their speeches and then the voting started, which took a while. While the votes were being cast, the various candidates for the State Central Committee and representatives of presidential and other campaigns were given time to speak.
Like the rest of the meeting, the speeches went by mostly without incident, except for two odd moments.
In his speech advocating his election to the State Central Committee, VCN employee Alec Thomas surprisingly referenced and tried to walk back a comment that he had publicly made on Facebook. In the comment on Facebook he had stated that he’d “vote for a literal turd before voting for Brat for any nomination…” Those that were unaware of those comments previously, now knew. (The offending comment is reflected in the image at right).
The second odd moment occurred when Republican Party of Virginia Executive Director John Findlay made a show of standing up and applauding during the portion of State Central Candidate Ron Hedlund’s speech where Ron made reference to Chairman Whitbeck’s opposition to his candidacy and the financing of efforts to defeat him. That certainly turned several heads.
The voting was finished. The speeches were done. The votes were counted. The results were announced around 9pm. In the end, the establishment choice, Eddie Whitlock prevailed, garnering 410 votes to “Brat Pack” member Jim Herring’s 235. (If you do the math, you’ll notice that 22 people either left before voting started or happened to be out of the room.)
Jim asked to say a few words and gave a gracious concession speech, telling the remaining crowd to come together and support the Republican Party. Eddie Whitlock said a few words about moving forward together and healing the divide in the Party. Then the meeting adjourned.
How much the Hedlund/Whitbeck situation affected the outcome of this mass meeting is impossible to determine. There will be a clearer view of that once we reach the 7th District Convention, which is on May 21st. We’ll keep an eye out for any updates or developments in regards to the State Central Committee races.
In the meantime, congrats to Eddie Whitlock and his team!