Monday, May 19, 2008

New PWC GOP Committee Meeting

Just returned from the first meeting of the newly-reconstituted Prince William County Republican Committee.


All three newly-elected members of the State Central Committee elected from the 11th Congressional District at Saturday's Convention --- David Ray; Patsy Drain; and Keith Damon (who I had not previously met, but came highly recommended by Fairfax Senator Ken Cuccinelli) --- were in attendance, and expressed their appreciationfor their support from Prince William.

And give new County GOP Chairman Lyle Beefelt credit: he knows how to stick to a schedule. We were scheduled to adjourn by 8:45, and by God, we adjourned by 8:45.

It might have been earlier but for some controversies which might well have been resolved more easily with a little more planning and/or better execution of the County Convention.

What is perhaps most interesting is the fact that the good planning and/or little missteps which would have provoked charges of conspiracy and perhaps even high treason probably will be ignored by those who hated former Chairman Tom Kopko for ideological reasons. One has to wonder why?

The only big controversy was over elections of inferior officers. Not because there was a surplus of candidates; none of the races was contested. And a question was raised over only one of them.

What provoked the controversy was the question of Treasurer. It seems that the individual interested in the job, a woman I don't know by the name of Fotis (Kim?), had erroneously failed to mark the box for Committee membership at the County Convention. Hence, she was not technically qualified for election prior to a vote on new Members, as the Party Plan requires election by the County Committee from "among their number." As an aside, this was a conscious choice by the committee which drafted the Party Plan --- I was its Chairman --- to insure continuity of leadership, among other reasons.

It seems that a number of people (initially just former Secretary Karen Ulrich) objected to moving the election of Treasurer --- required to occur at this meeting by virtue of the Party Plan --- to after the election of new members. The change was suggested by me, among others. The practice of the Committee has long been to hold that election until the end of the meeting.

However, this problem was averted when the prior Treasurer, Kathy Royse, consented to election, and promised to resign in favor of the new Treasurer upon her election. While I have no reason to distrust Kathy, the problem with this course lies in the fact that Kathy was technically elected to a two-year term, and there is nothing which would compel her to resign, should she choose not to.

Now, there are good and sufficient reasons for the practice of electing new Members at the end of the meeting. Primarily, it insures the orderly conduct of County Committee meetings, and insures that no one can "pack" a Committee meeting and engage in activities which would embarass the GOP and its nominees.

And there were good and sufficient reasons to vary from this practice on this occasion, the primary one being that there was no great controversy over this single election, and it appears that the single candidate was not technically qualified at that point in the meeting simply due to an oversight.

Of course, the County Committee is charged with the continuing corporate existence of the GOP in Prince William County. It is, though some seem not to understand this, or ignore it, the leadership of the Republican Party in the County. It is decidely not the rank-and-file of the Party, which --- by virtue of the County Party Plan --- is made up of:
All legal and qualified voters of Prince William County under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, regardless of race, religion, national origin or sex, who are in accord with the principles of the Republican Party and who, if requested, express in open meeting either orally or in writing as may be required, their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election....
Because of this fact, it is sound policy to provide some level of control on those who vote in a County Committee meeting. The same reason justifies the rules limiting Membership to a certain number of Precinct Members (never approached, so far as I know) based upon a proportion of GOP votes in preceding elections, and a limited number of At-Large Members (again, never invoked, so far as I can recall). Aside from this fact, Members of the County Committee are require to be registered voters. And indeed, that desire for "control" is precisely why we vote new Members in to the Committee. Objections can be raised, for good reasons and bad, but certainly among them, over the concern that adherents to principles other than those of the GOP might attempt to take over the local Republican leadership.

Allowing anyone who appears at a County Committee meeing, signs an application, and writes a check for $50 (dues for a two-year membership) to vote immediately prevents the important process of verification that the applicant is, in fact, a registered voter (a process followed by the Credentials Committee at the County Convention and/or Mass Meetings). This is an important process required by both the State and County Party Plans as a qualification for Membership.

As it turns out, the only item of "New Business" discussed at tonight's County Committee meeting was when the Old Whithered Wench, AKA Anke W. Cheney, appeared at the meeting to declare that, perhaps, this policy should be reconsidered. She made no motion, but provoked some discussion.

Now that the Old Whithered Wench thinks it's a good idea is sufficient reason to question it. After all, she has absented herself from most participation in the deliberations of the Committee since it was founded in 1991. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is when the GOP in Prince William County has come to dominate County politics.

And, of course, she has engaged in the sleazy practice of attempting to use the criminal justice system against political enemies, chronicled here. Moreover, she has previously renounced the GOP when she didn't like the results of a contested nomination.

Ah, were it that it were so.

But the policy --- and it is only a practice, apparently not written into the Party Plan --- is a sound one, and one which has proven useful in the past. The Old Whithered Wench suggested at the meeting that the alternative of voting in new Members at the beginning of a meeting would promote Party growth. She asserted that such individuals stay in the GOP.

I have my doubts. After all, the only occasion when it was meaningfully invoked involved the efforts of former Chairman Sean Connaughton to take revenge on the GOP for the embarassing loss he suffered in a straw poll conducted at the 2004 County Convention regarding the impending race for Lieutenant Governor, for which he was a candidate for the GOP nomination. Having failed to support the local GOP, he didn't encourage his supporters to attend. They stayed away, in droves. Probably as a result, his main competitor --- future nominee and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling --- walked away with a victory, and 70% of the vote.

At the next meeting of the County Committee, the organizational meeting, Chairman Sean attempted to "pack" the Committee with new "Members," all paying the then $30 dues on the spot and demanding a vote for new officers. Chairman Sean's campaign flack, Hector Quintana, was in attendance to oversee the operation, and it was reported to me at the time that he was on the phone with a very-agitated Chairman Sean when his attempted coup failed miserably, upon invocation of the existing practice by then-Chairman Brian Murphy, much to his credit.

The group brought in was widely described as a "mob" by those in attendance. And apparently, Chairman Sean didn't have too many standards in his quest for higher office: many were also Democrats. At least one of those attending was an individual with whom I attend church. Now, she's a very nice lady. But she's also a Democrat. Indeed, just a few months later, I saw her car with a "Kaine for Governor" sticker prominently displayed.

Few, if any, of the others have ever darkened the door of the GOP in the years since.

And even if it were true, is it the kind of "growth" to be desired by a political party with public responsibilities? Should local GOP leadership in the form of its Committee become subject to the control of a well-funded group which sufficiently organizes itself for a single meeting?

I think not. And while the goals of those who separated the County GOP from the combined Manassas/Prince William County Committee in 1990/91 were explicitly to deliver control of the County Party to the grass roots, as always, it was important to strike a balance between grass-roots control and surrendering control of the GOP to whatever mob happens temporarily to assemble.

It's a lesson as old as the American Founding, in which the Framers conscientiously and intentionally bequeathed to us a republic, not a democracy. And one that those who would consider any proposed change to this long-standing practice to consider carefully before doing so.

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