Hager, Frederick Slug It Out for GOP Chairman's Job
Thursday, April 10, 2008
RICHMOND The hottest contest at the Virginia Republican Party convention next month might not be the one between Del. Robert G. Marshall and former governor James S. Gilmore for the nomination for Senate.
It could be the battle for state party chairman, which has taken a nasty turn and exposed a generational divide within the party.
Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (Prince William) is posing a serious challenge to Chairman John H. Hager, who is seeking reelection to the job he has held since August.
Frederick, 32, and Hager, 71, are crisscrossing Virginia to line up support from delegates, dispatching paid staffers to local GOP committee meetings and launching whisper campaigns about each other.
It's bare-knuckle politics at its finest, and the outcome could determine the direction of a state party that has been reeling from a string of losses, most recently in the November election for General Assembly.
Frederick says the party needs new leadership if it wants to regain its footing against the better-funded, better-organized state Democratic Party, which has flourished under the leadership of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former governor Mark R. Warner.
"We need bold new leadership," Frederick said in an interview. "Under Hager's watch, we lost four seats in the state Senate, and we lost five seats in the House. We are just a few seats away from losing control of the House [next year]. If we lose control, all the things we worked so hard on over the years will be erased."
But should GOP activists replace Hager, a tested public servant who appears to have been a stabilizing force for the party?
"I think the Republican Party of Virginia has righted the ship and is doing outstanding work," Hager said. "I am excited about the progress we are making. Stability and proven leadership is what RPV needs."
After languishing for years under past leaders, the state party does appear to be improving its operation with Hager.
The party has invested in technology, retooled its fundraising and helped lessen divisions between Republicans in the House and Senate.
In recent weeks, Hager has led coordination efforts between the state and national parties to fend off Democratic attempts to win the state's 13 electoral votes in this fall's presidential race.