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Local GOP splintering over … what, exactly?

Valley Democrats are clashing over ideology. Valley Republicans are clashing over … well, it seems their very existence.
“Time to rebuild, and move forward,” commented Chris Green, the author of the Spank That Donkey political blog, in a post on his blog last night, after a contentious ACRC meeting that led to a mass exodus of local Republicans from the committee.

It depends on whose side you’re on as to whether you will characterize the departure of the 56 committee members as resignations or excommunications. The issue has been brewing since the first of the year, according to local GOP blogger accounts, when party chair Bill Shirley reportedly brought up in a meeting of the executive committee of the ACRC that a number of committee members were in violation of a bylaw requirement regarding regular meeting attendance and suggested that they be purged from the committee’s membership.

David Karaffa, a now-former member of the executive committee who is among those who resigned from the party Tuesday night, said in a comment posted on the Augusta Conservative blog that he argued against the move at the January meeting and that the executive committee agreed to drop the matter at that time.

The issue came back up for discussion this month, Karaffa noted in his blog post, and the executive committee went forward with the removal of members who had missed three consecutive party meetings or more from the membership rolls.

It would appear that this wasn’t merely a clearing of space on a database of people who weren’t still very active in the local GOP. Among those on the delete list were three party vice chairs, Jason Bibeau, Tom Nelson, a former Augusta County Board of Supervisors candidate, and Lynn Mitchell, the author of the SWACGirl blog and a member of the GOP State Central Committee. All three formally resigned Tuesday night, along with Karaffa, the chair of the Beverley Manor magisterial district GOP, and four other magisterial district chairs.

It’s hard to say that the splinter is along some ideological fault line. Mitchell is closely allied to former Augusta Republican chair Kurt Michael, who was ousted from his position last year after a dustup with State Sen. Emmett Hanger dating back to the 2007 GOP primary in the 24th Senate District in which Michael led a group of local Republican Party chairs in backing ultraconservative Scott Sayre’s nomination challenge that ultimately fell short. But it had appeared up until Michael was pushed out as chair that Michael and Mitchell were aides de camp with the likes of Green and Steve Kijak, another local party veteran who is the author of the Rightside VA blog.

Green and Kijak are clearly now quite vocal critics of Mitchell, Michael et al

“The truth of the matter is, that if the dissidents in this group….. who legimately were booted for not showing up to three called meetings… worked just 1/10 as hard against the democrats, as they did to unseat… our current chairman, (who was chosen by them when kurt michael resigned)….. where would we be? Some people absolutely crave power,” Green wrote on his Spank That Donkey blog last night.

Kijak wrote on Rightside VA in response to a comment from a local Republican who wrote that Kijak holds hatred for Michael and Mitchell instead of “hatred” the word “tolerance” would be a better descriptor, “for it has gotten to a point where many are fed up with the manipulation and tactics used by these individuals to control and direct people. They have been doing it for years and there is a long list of very good people and strong grassroots workers who are now “on the otherside” because they saw the manipulation and treatment of others by M&M for what it was. A long list and you know many of the tactics used.”

Kijak and Green were elected to vice chair slots at the Tuesday committee meeting, along with Craigh Shrewsbury, the husband of Augusta County Commissioner of the Revenue Jean Shrewsbury, a Hanger ally.

Mitchell in a letter posted on the Yankee Phillip blog this week said she wanted to “apologize on behalf of Republicans for your removal at a time when we are trying to grow the Party. We have an extremely important election year coming up when volunteers should be recruited, not removed.”

“Thank you for your years of volunteering. I will see you in the Republican unemployment line,” Mitchell said.

Karaffa in his comment on Augusta Conservative was more direct and to the point. “I cannot in good conscience continue to stand by and support the persons and actions that have been taken by this committee’s leadership,” Karaffa said. “I refuse to be associated with a leader or an organization that allows this type of corruption and dictation. I ask you to take the time to scrutinize this situation for yourselves, take a hard look at who is giving up power to pursue the support of their principles, and who is sacrificing their principles in the pursuit of power. Then make your own decisions.”


– Story by Chris Graham