Ousted Head of Virginia's GOP Defies Party, Says He'll Seek Chairmanship

Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick lost Virginia's Republican Party chairmanship last week.
Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick lost Virginia's Republican Party chairmanship last week. (Courtesy Of Jeffrey M. Frederick)
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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

RICHMOND, April 6 -- Ousted Virginia Republican leader Jeffrey M. Frederick said Monday he will probably run for party chairman again in May, setting up another clash with the GOP's gubernatorial nominee, Robert F. McDonnell, as Republicans struggle to unite for the November election.

Frederick said in an interview that he does not think the party's leaders, McDonnell among them, will be able to turn around years of Republican losses in Virginia.

"I'm very concerned about the party's ability to win in the fall," Frederick said. "The current track we are on will not provide the results that we need."

This year, Republicans hope not only to win back the governor's mansion but also to keep two other statewide seats and retain control of the House of Delegates.

Frederick, 33, a conservative delegate from Prince William County, acknowledged that his pursuit of the party chairmanship could distract from McDonnell's campaign. But Frederick blamed McDonnell and other Republican elected officials for intervening. "What they need to figure out is, they are not the party," Frederick said. "I'm sick of things being run from the top down."

The embattled party chairman lost his post last week after six hours of debate behind closed doors concluded with the party's governing board, the State Central Committee, voting 57 to 18 to remove him.

"The party is more important than the person," said Wendell Walker, a State Central Committee member from Lynchburg.

Allegations against Frederick included contentions that he directed business to his own company, spent party money for unbudgeted purposes without approval, refused to coordinate with Republican presidential nominee John McCain's campaign and made embarrassing political gaffes. One involved an ill-timed remark during the campaign comparing Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden.

Although most party leaders have considered the flap an unhelpful distraction, Saturday's vote did show that McDonnell is emerging as the unambiguous leader of the party heading into the 2009 election season.

The party's chairman typically coordinates the raising and spending of millions of dollars in campaign funds to help its slate of candidates, and this year the chairman is likely to be in regular contact with McDonnell's campaign team.

Mike Thomas, a leader in the movement to replace Frederick and who serves as the party's interim chairman, said that "for many of the [central committee] members, it came down to what is going to best capitalize on this great opportunity this year. That remains their focus."

McDonnell at first had refused to get involved in the feud, but a few weeks ago he said the party needed more effective leadership in a pivotal year. His spokesman, Tucker Martin, declined to respond to Frederick's comments Monday.

"We must turn our attention to the November elections and work together to advance our positive, common-sense vision for bringing jobs and opportunity to every region of Virginia," McDonnell said in a statement Saturday. "I look forward to leading the effort to unify our party after this vote."

Gary C. Byler, chairman of the 2nd Congressional District Republican Committee in Hampton Roads and a Frederick supporter, said he is urging Frederick to endorse McDonnell's campaign and not to run for chairman. "It's a distraction. No doubt about it," Byler said.

The State Central Committee is expected to select Pat Mullins, Louisa County's Republican chairman, or Alexandra Liddy Bourne of Fairfax, an unsuccessful House candidate, as the party leader May 2. But party rules require the election of a chairman four weeks later at the Republican state convention May 30. There, 8,000 to 10,000 activists are expected to gather in Richmond to unite behind McDonnell.

Frederick would not comment on whether he is considering an alternative post, such as a third-party bid for governor or other elected office.

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