Virginia's GOP Chairman Under Fire and Fighting Back

Frederick Under Fire

It frequently seems to happen to chairmen of state Republican parties, particularly when they are conservative: Charges are flung that the chairman is abrasive and doesn’t get along with key leaders in the party. Weak fund-raising results and defeats at the polls are inevitably blamed on the man or woman at the party helm. Soon some well-known party figures (who are inevitably well-heeled or are elected officials) begin calling for the head of the GOP chairman.  

This is what happened to former California State Republican Chairmen John McGraw and Shawn Steel a few years ago and, more recently, to Arizona GOP Chairman Randy Pullen, who narrowly survived an attempt to purge him at the state party convention in January. And now it is happening to Jeff Frederick, a 33-year-old state legislator who is Republican state chairman of Virginia.  

In recent weeks, 58 of the 77 members of the GOP state committee have either signed a petition or written letters calling for the head of Frederick, who ousted then-State Chairman and former Virginia Lt.Gov. John Hager by a wide margin at the state party convention last summer. Two weeks ago, six state senators and five Old Dominion Republican U.S. House members weighed in against Frederick. Last week, certain 2009 Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell called for the embattled state chairman to step down. 

Frederick Fights Back

In filing a statement of intent to remove Frederick as chairman, his enemies list ten charges against him. Three of the charges concern Frederick’s management of Republican Party finances. The other seven deal with alleged infractions of party rules.  

In the category of financial mismanagement, for example, one charge against Frederick is his “failure to transmit, in a timely manner, online contributions made to the Republican Party of Virginia and processed by his own company.” The fighting Frederick pointed out as part of a detailed response to every charge that while waiting for a vendor to complete work on the party’s new website that included a mechanism for on-line donations, he had established a “place holding” website through his own firm GSX Strategies, Inc. and also used the firm’s on-line donation company and subsidiary, This was, Frederick explained, for a period of 91 days.  

In a letter to supporters dealing with this and all the other charges, Frederick explained that “it was my hope I could respond to the charges without distributing them to a large audience.” But, he noted, his hopes of dealing with the charges exclusively within the 77-member State Central Committee were dashed “when my critics turned them over to the Associated Press.”  

The embattled chairman also noted that, even though Barack Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964 and that the state has two Democratic senators for the first time in 37 years, the state GOP raised more than $1 million during his first seven months as chairman.  

In the coming weeks, there will undoubtedly be a confrontation between Frederick and his enemies before the State Central Committee. The chairman has made it clear he will not resign and, privately, organizers of the “Dump Frederick” effort concede they do not have the two-thirds committee vote necessary to oust him.  

If he is forced out or resigns, several names have been mentioned as potential replacements for Frederick, among them former Loudon County Party Chairman Randy Minchew, former state party official Shaun Kenney, and Northern Virginia businessman Earle Williams, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination for governor in 1993. Not one, however, has made any concrete moves toward waging an actual race for chairman.  

When I pressed one of the Frederick’s foes about who he and his allies had in mind as a potential chairman if the incumbent goes, he said: “No one yet. We haven’t thought it through that far. Right now, getting Frederick out is the main idea.”