Defeated Virginia gubernatorial candidate Wyatt B. Durrette's effort to pay off nearly $200,000 in campaign debts has provoked an angry response from a prominent New Right conservative who charged that the GOP nominee was a "wimp" who ran an inexcusably bad race.
"You have wasted more money than most good campaigns spend for productive efforts," Paul M. Weyrich, president of a conservative political action committee, told Durrette in a letter.
"You deserve neither money nor sympathy. But we who are stuck with your candidacy deserve an apology and a refund for our past contributions."
Weyrich, who had supported Republican Rep. Stan Parris of Fairfax for the nomination, said in his one-page letter to Durrette, "If you had half as much gaul sic during the campaign as it took to write your November 7th letter asking for money, you might be governor-elect."
Weyrich's letter, which was disclosed by Republicans unhappy with Durrette's Nov. 5 loss to Democrat Gerald L. Baliles, reflected some of the divisions within the Virginia GOP.
"I hope it hurts you to read this, because you have hurt a lot of Republicans and conservatives by the terrible campaign you ran," Weyrich said. "And worst of all the liberals in the Republican Party are now blaming us for your loss. We weren't even involved in your campaign and that is the way that you wanted it."
Durrette said today that he had responded to Weyrich's Nov. 11 letter with a brief note. "Your letter came as no surprise, in light of your conduct over the years, and your reputation in political circles," the note said. "Conceptually and factually it is laughable.
"The conservative cause and the Republican Party will do quite well in the future if you could manage the same degree of involvement in both that you had in my campaign," Durrette said.
Weyrich, head of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, is not alone among conservatives in being upset with what they view as attempts by party moderates to blame them for the GOP's losses, the second consecutive Democratic sweep of the top three statewide offices.
Richard Dingman, who was co-chairman of Durrette's campaign in Fairfax County, said conservatives are getting a "bum rap" for the GOP defeat. Dingman, who described himself as a "longtime personal friend" of Durrette, said the election "was not a referendum on conservatism" because campaign officials "would not let it be. His advisers moved him to the middle, so there was no distinction" between Durrette and Baliles.
Dingman, a political consultant and former director of the House Republican Study Committee, said "there should have been a change of leadership within the campaign, not within the party."
He also complained that as a Northern Virginia precinct captain he suffered from "a great lack of materials until just before" the election. "We begged for signs," he said.
Dingman said that Richard Viguerie of McLean, the conservative direct-mail entrepreneur who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, was appointed to head a committee of surrogates "but was never called on."
Another unsuccessful candidate for the number two spot, Maurice Dawkins of Springfield, described by Dingman as "a black who electrified the convention," also was never called upon. "That was another dramatic mistake."
Weyrich said in his letter that television evangelist Pat Robertson of Virginia Beach "offered three times to be of help to you . . . but he was told his services weren't wanted.
"Now at least you know why some of us wanted Stan Parris as our candidate. He may not have been quite as conservative as you are, but he isn't a wimp."
Durrette's letter said that his campaign spent $125,000 on radio and television commercials in the last week of the campaign, plus $70,000 on other November expenses that were not covered by previous contributions.