Michael departure bad news for GOP, good news for Dems

The Local Beat column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

The Republican Party is going to miss Kurt Michael – big time.

Michael affirmed in a blog posting at sixtyfour81.com on Tuesday that he will step down from the position of chair of the GOP committee in Augusta County as he had promised back in April.

He is leaving the post, he wrote in the blog, “in order to bring unity to the local party.” I have to wonder, though, if the departure of Michael will do more in allowing the party to heal its wounds than it will do in terms of damage with him out of the leadership inner circle.

For his faults, and the overreach in last year’s 24th District Senate primary in pushing the candidacy of lightning-rod challenger Scott Sayre against incumbent Emmett Hanger is his primary one of those, Michael was quite effective in the role of party chair, bringing in new muscle in the form of a hearty (if not leaning toward the lightning-rod point of view themselves) group of shock troops that, and you have to give credit where credit is due, know how to organize a local party committee.

I don’t know what happens to the Michael Disciples with him out of the way now. I’m not hearing that any of their ranks are going to be next in line to serve as party chair, which might be for the best, because, and I mean no offense by this, but it was Michael who was the straw who stirred the drink.

I had the fortune to get to know Michael well in the early years of his turn as the GOP chair and in the early years of the Augusta Free Press, and in the course of working on a couple of projects together, I realized quickly his love for Augusta County, the Republican Party, and paying attention to the minutest of small details as he sought ways to increase the party’s reach in local politics.

Nothing against any of his potential successors, but I don’t know that I see the same combination of skills and desire in the likes of Larry Roller and Bill Shirley, to cite two of the local Republicans who seem to have an inside track at the party-chair position at this point in time.

To some degree, of course, just about anybody could run the GOP in Augusta County and claim to be good at it. You don’t have to do much more than turn on the voting machines, and you’re going to get 65 percent of the vote, even if your candidate uses a racial slur that ends up on YouTube.

But … I don’t know, it seems the times are a-changin’. And Barack Obama and Mark Warner might have a chance in Virginia in the fall, and Republicans statewide are going to need Augusta County to get every Republican vote it can to have any shot at winning.

Their best shot was with Michael at the helm of the Augusta GOP ship.

I guess I ought to just go ahead and say this, as controversial as it may be. This news is great news for Democrats and progressives, both locally here in the Valley and across the Commonwealth.


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