It ain’t about me, it’s about us

The Politics Beat column by Chris Graham

Republicans were doing just fine before Kurt Michael took over as the chair of the Augusta County GOP. They will likely do just fine after Michael gives up the chairmanship.

I mean, this is a county that gave Bob Dole 60 percent of the vote in the 1996 presidential election. And Bob Dole wasn’t exactly Mr. Conservative.

That ’96 election was my first November election as a journalist in my home market. I remember back to that time that the county had a majority-Republican county board of supervisors, a Republican state senator, and a solid up-and-coming GOP state delegate in the form of Steve Landes.

Michael, a teacher at the Central Shenandoah Valley Regional Governor’s School, certainly did a good job building on that base. We can’t give Michael credit for getting rid of Creigh Deeds – the General Assembly did that by moving his legislative district. But the local Republican Party has strengthened its grip on the board of supervisors and the county’s constitutional offices and still has that state-senate seat, and has a pair of delegates in Ben Cline and Chris Saxman working with Landes in Richmond. And in the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won an astounding 74.4 percent of the vote, a healthy clip up from where Dole was here locally eight years before.

(And it ain’t like George W. Bush is Mr. Conservative, either.)

We can give Michael credit for recruiting new volunteers to the local party. And for making the local GOP much more visible than it ever was before. I honestly don’t even remember who Michael’s predecessors were, and that’s because it just didn’t seem to matter then who was in charge of things.

Now, you can read that as being good or being bad. Michael’s critics, and they are legion, accuse him of being just as interested, if not more so, in building a cult of personality as in building the local party base. It’s hard to argue against that point when one considers what has been taking place the past couple of weeks. Debate if you will the conduct of the April 10 mass meeting, the bottom line is that we saw a surprisingly strong turnout of local Republicans who wanted to see a change at the top, followed by an effort led by Michael to effectively disenfranchise those who had expressed that particular point of view that has been backed by a small but intense group of Michael supporters.

I would say that it’s a shame that Michael is going out like this, but then I consider that Michael is still just a young feller in political terms, at 44. He is being replaced by the 80-year-old Larry Roller, who is clearly just a compromise choice who will lead the party for the short term. If Michael plays his cards right, and I’ve known Kurt personally for six years, and think the world of his political acumen, the last couple of weeks notwithstanding, he’ll be back as a heavyweight player in local GOP circles. He’s far too good at organizing and building and getting the job done to just hang it up and call it a political career.

It would have to be a kinder, gentler Kurt Michael, though. Because as good as he is at organizing and building and getting the job done, he still rubbed enough people in high places the wrong way to get himself deposed.

Michael will be wise to keep in mind some advice given to me by a basketball coach who was upset with my penchant for shooting first and asking questions later.

Son, say this to yourself and mean it: It ain’t about me, it’s about us.


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