There are rarely good stories to tell in local politics, especially when dealing with the last vestiges of Eric Cantor’s old 7th district. The disdain of the grassroots and the intractability of the establishment never fail to provide the blogosphere with a juicy and nasty story of contempt and intrigue. What happened in Hanover last night was a change, but it did not come with the usual vitriol and gloating we’re accustomed too.
While other websites write about what divides us and while Hanover County has been the staple of division in Virginia, what I’ve heard about last night’s Hanover GOP Chairmanship battle inspires. I was unable to get Nancy Russell on the phone and that’s totally understandable. However, through email and social media, I have read nothing nasty or vitriolic from her camp. I have heard nothing but humility and honest frustration from Russell’s people.
I did get a chance to talk to Russ Wright. Typically, after one of these elections there are all kinds of people willing to say all kinds of horrible things about the other party. The meeting Nancy Russell put on last night failed to deliver such drama. Russ Wright had nothing negative to say and neither did anyone else I spoke to on his behalf this evening. Nancy Russell served as admirably as any outgoing chairman could.
After speaking with Russ Wright, he explained that “not only did both sides get their people out, but we were able to agree upon a temporary chair and parliamentarian.” Steve Albertson, of The Bull Elephant, served as parliamentarian, and encouraged the conservative alternative to agree to a temporary co-chair, filled by Fran Sadler. Fran, by unanimous accounts did an outstanding job. There were no complaints.
There were no parliamentary tricks, no authoritarian moves made by Nancy Russell and staff. I spoke to dozens of people at the meeting, including activists and the employs of elected officials, and everyone marveled at the order and the correctness of the proceedings.
Here is what didn’t happen. You do not get Nancy Russell of Cantor fame, Steve Albertson of The Bull Elephant fame, Russ Wright of Hanover County and hundreds of activists together and everything run smoothly. After-all, the establishment is evil right? Oddly, everyone I’ve spoken with today has told me the same story. This was a great meeting. So, apparently, the establishment is not evil and the grassroots are not underhanded.
There were no tricks, no moves, no nothing. No one is looking to go on the record to complain.
Bearing Drift can complain all they want about an ex-libertarian holding an official Republican office, but, as an ex-libertarian myself, and as a committed member of the Republican Party, I cannot sympathize with their complaints.
And Conservatives in Hanover, via Virginia Right, can claim all the credit they want, celebrating Russ’s win as a final nail in the coffin of Cantor, as I’ve called it, but that isn’t what happened either. This was better than that.
The real story is this: Nancy Russell ran a legit meeting, Russ Wright ran a legit campaign, and the people of Hanover made a decision. There are no villains here. What happened last night, in one of the most contentious counties in Virginia, was that the activists and their opposition, met, according to all the rules and agreements, and selected a GOP Chairman.
Nancy Russell’s people have been nothing but humble in defeat and Russ Wright’s people have been nothing but humble in victory. With every phone call I make, I hear from activists in Hanover County that they just want to move forward and strengthen the Republican Party. The RPV should look to Hanover County, the most divisive of counties, as the best example of counties, when it comes to a time to choose.
I want to wish congratulations to Russ Wright and I want to say thank you to Nancy Russell, and I want to celebrate Hanover County. No one played dirty tricks on anyone, everything was fair, and everyone behaved honorably; and we’re all lucky to have Hanover County in the First District. Win, Lose, or Draw, this is what we should hope for – fairness, process, procedure, and commitment to the party at large. Nancy Russell and Russ Wright gave us that. In the most contentious battle, we saw the best from everyone. I hope that this fact isn’t overlooked or ignored by folks across our great State.
Note from Steve Albertson: I heartily agree with what Steven has written. From my perspective, however, I want to single out the chairman candidates for particular praise. Early on in the mass meeting planning, Nancy Russell brought in the opposition to help. By all accounts she was open and transparent at every step, and sought to do nothing more than run an efficient and fair meeting. This included consulting with Wright’s team on the rules, the agenda, and all procedures.
She didn’t have to do that. In fact, many, many other chairmen facing a challenge get very defensive, and do things like setting traps for the opposition and hoarding relevant information so as to disadvantage the opposition. These kinds of tactics don’t often change the outcome of a contested election, but they always leave lasting bruises on the local party.
Nancy Russell did none of that. In fact, she did the opposite, and demonstrated excellent leadership for the party. Because she made room at the table for the opposition, that opposition was able to have trust in the process. That trust in turn resulted in a much less contentious meeting than we would have otherwise seen (e.g., no contest for the post of temporary chairman). And, it allowed people to leave a meeting satisfied that everyone had been treated fairly, when what they had expected was a bloodbath.
Likewise, a kudos is due to Russ Wright, Debbie Agliano, Dale Taylor and the rest of the conservative team for working hard and doing things the right way. Russ was gracious and conciliatory, and seems poised to be able to unite a committee that has been far too fractious in recent years. Congratulations, Russ! Job well done!
Both sides should be proud of how things were handled in Hanover last night. As Steve says above, this is a great example for others.