What Next for Virginia GOP After Chairman Ousted?

Forty-eight hours after Jeff Frederick was ousted as Republican State Chairman of Virginia on Saturday (April 4), movement was underway to determine a successor for at the Virginia GOP’s helm of the Old Dominion.

As of today, one of the names most often mentioned for chairman was that of Louisa County GOP Chairman Pat Mullens, considered a strong conservative. George Allen, former governor and U.S. Senator from Virginia, was the subject of enthusiastic talk for the chairmanship. Allen’s enthusiastics say his taking the party post could be the first step in a political comeback for Allen, who narrowly lost his Senate seat in ’06.  Also mentioned is Sandy Liddy Bourne, Northern Virginia conservative activist and daughter of radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy.

Another prospect for chairman is attorney and Patrick Henry College Chancellor Michael P. Farris, who narrowly lost the 1993 race for lieutenant governor.  But a spokesman for Farris told me last night that “Mike was approached for the chairmanship but has decided this is something he is not going to pursue.”  

In a story that made Page One of the Washington Post and the news section of Sunday’s New York Times, the state GOP Executive Committee voted to depose the 33-year-old Frederick by a margin of 57-to-18.  Although Frederick could take his case to the state party convention (which attracts a far larger crowd of party activists, most of them conservative), sources close to the chairman he is unlikely to pursue that avenue.

“Jeff has outstanding conservative credentials, but this was more a case of the establishment vs. the grassroots than moderate vs. conservative,” said one Frederick supporter who was in Richmond for the grueling six-hour session that ended in the unseating of the chairman.  “It really was about whether the party leaders are going to determine a chairman in the year Virginia elects a governor or whether the grass-roots will choose the chairman.”

Last summer, state legislator Frederick unseated then-State Chairman John Hager by a lopsided margin at the state party convention.  At that time, the issue was not ideology but a sense among activists that Hager was not actively working at the party position.  

Controversy that swirled around Frederick ranged from running party business through his own company (something he explained in detail in a memorandum to party leaders) and the disastrous performance of the Virginia GOP  in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first Democrat to carry its electoral votes since 1964.  

Five GOP congressmen from Virginia, the Republican leaders of the legislature, and ’09 gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell all called for a new chairman.

In the end, Frederick went down.  But when one looks at his possible successors as well as just who weighed in against him, it was certainly not a case of ideology but another case of someone who took on the party job at a bad time and was forced to pay for doing so.

Unfair?  Sure.  But in politics, timing is everything — and sometimes it hurts. 


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