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Michael challenges GOP chair vote

Story by Chris Graham

Two chairs, one chair, no chair.

The Augusta County Republican Committee is split asunder after a mass meeting Thursday night that saw the defeat of long-time chairman Kurt Michael, then featured an interesting power play by Michael that resulted in a second vote that has Michael claiming to have been re-elected to the leadership position.

The Republican Party of Virginia has been asked to intervene to make sense of the mess. RPV communications coordinator Josh Noland told The Augusta Free Press this afternoon that party officials are reviewing what took place at the mass meeting.

“Our role is to determine whether or not the meeting was conducted according to the party plan. That’s our objective right now,” Noland said.

Larry Roller was elected chair by a 141-103 vote – after a procedural vote on the election of a temporary chair for the meeting saw Michael defeated by former Augusta County Board of Supervisors chairman Jim Bailey.

Chaos seemed to ensue from there. Michael reportedly refused to turn over documents related to the management of the meeting to Bailey, who had to then run the meeting without an agenda and according to several accounts in the local news media and the blogosphere struggled at best to keep the meeting on task.

After the vote count was made public, and Roller was declared the new party chair, Michael raised issue with the adjournment call by Bailey and ran through the meeting a second time following the departure of most of the participants from the earlier meeting. That second run-through ended with a motion to install Michael as chair that ended with a 57-2 vote in favor.

Longstanding tensions in the county GOP rose to the surface last spring when Michael led several local Republican Party chairs in an effort to back Rockbridge County businessman Scott Sayre in his race against Sen. Emmett Hanger for the party nomination in the 24th Senate District. Hanger beat back the challenge and easily won re-election in November with the public support of Michael, but the apparent feud between the two begin to work again toward a boil following the election.

The local mainstream media and blogosphere has been abuzz today with news and rumors regarding what will happen next. The News Leader is reporting this afternoon that a matter involving local party bylaws regarding the conduct of the meeting could mean that neither vote was legitimate. Michael supporters have, for their part, raised several issues with Bailey’s handling of the meeting, while Hanger backer Andrew Clem has raised issue with the actions of the Michael camp relative to their conduct during the mass meeting and afterward.

The points being thrown back and forth could all be moot. Hanger told the AFP this afternoon that he has talked with senior RPV officials, and it is his understanding that the state party is only concerned with the fact that the mass meeting ended without the local party having named delegates to the Sixth District and state GOP conventions.

“The election of a new chair was completely legal. I expect that if there is an appeal that it will be dealt with appropriately,” Hanger said.

augusta free press news
augusta free press news