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Has the local GOP passed its moderate wing by?

The Politics Beat column by Chris Graham

One guy gets more votes, the other guy has friends in high places, and you can guess who wins.

I could be talking about George Bush, Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, but I’m not. I’m talking about the Augusta County Republican Committee, which elected Larry Roller chairman last month, only to have the will of the local party subverted earlier this month by the Sixth District Republican Committee and today by the State Central Committee of the Virginia GOP.

I have to say, I feel for the moderate Republicans led by Larry Roller and State Sen. Emmett Hanger and former Augusta County Board of Supervisors chairman Jim Bailey right about now. They rightly won the election for a new party chair at the April 10 mass meeting in Verona, and they did it the old-fashioned way. They got people out to the meeting and got their votes.

It’s a sad day for democracy when the people have spoken, and their voices are ignored by the powers-that-be. And the people in the Augusta County Republican Committee have spoken. They said they wanted to move forward past the politics of divisiveness that have marked their party’s activities for the past couple of years. And they said that they backed the common-sense approach of the likes of Hanger, who incidentally has to be wondering at this point if the Republican Party that he breathed life into in Augusta County back in the 1970s when he became the first elected GOP official in Augusta since Reconstruction has left him by the wayside.

I discussed this general issue last week at the Wal-Mart in Waynesboro with, of all people, Kurt Michael, who, on another note, seems to now have a decision to make regarding his announcement last month that he would step down as chair following this weekend’s Republican Party state convention, considering that the State Central Committee vote went his way.

Back to our chance meeting – Michael, whom I’ve known since he took over as the Augusta County GOP chair earlier in the decade, went out of his way to congratulate me on my recent election as chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee, and wished me well in my efforts to rebuild the party in Waynesboro and to work with my counterparts in Staunton and Augusta County to shape what can be an effective counterforce to the local Republican Party.

One thing that Michael said as we talked shop rings true with me given what happened today in Richmond. The local Democratic Party has been comparatively weak since the 1990s, and that has resulted in what political fighting we have here locally being internal within the hegemonic GOP between the moderate and conservative wings of the local party.

You could look at today’s results one way and say that the moderates who got the shaft from the State Central Committee could slink back home and gear up for another fight on another day within the local Republican Party. Another way to look at it would be that those moderates might wake up one day soon and realize that they can be moderates on the other side of the aisle with a lot more respect and dignity accorded their beliefs than they’re getting right now.

Food for thought …

augusta free press
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