Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) sent letters this week to 700 Virginia Republicans, suggesting that the state GOP needs new leadership and prompting speculation that he is laying the groundwork for another gubernatorial bid in four years.
Parris, who lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination this year to Richmond lawyer Wyatt B. Durrette, aimed his blasts at the party leadership that headed the Durrette effort. He added in an interview that Northern Virginia must assert itself and not let the shots be called by the Richmond money establishment and power brokers.
"Stan's obviously running for governor," said Fairfax County Supervisor Thomas M. Davis, a Durrette supporter. "He's taking his shots now . . . . This is one of many shots I think we'll be seeing."
Several other Republicans, who asked not to be named, said that Parris had begun in recent days to test the waters for another race for governor.
In an interivew, Parris said, "I'd be less than truthful if I didn't tell you I'd like to do it." But he added that he has three years before he must make any decision on that race.
Parris said he is not "looking to throw out" state party Chairman Donald W. Huffman and others in the party leadership, "but if they get dug in, we might not have any choice but to do that."
He said he wants to avoid a "bloodbath, if possible, because you inherit the ruins . . . . It's not fun and it's not productive. But if it doesn't change, you've got two choices -- quit or make it change."
Huffman and Judy Peachee, who runs the Richmond office of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.) and played a key role in the Durrette campaign and state GOP politics, did not return phone calls.
In the letter Parris sent out this week, he wrote: "If we are honest with ourselves, we will concede that in recent years some of those in our party have begun to do what the Democrats in Virginia did for years. In an effort to preserve their power, they have perpetuated a process that is intolerant of new ideas and new people."
Noting the devastating losses in November by Republican candidates in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Parris wrote that the party "saddled them with an exclusionary political process that all but guaranteed their losses."
Parris complained that the mass-meeting process gives county and city party chairmen too much power to decide when and where a mass meeting to nominate a Republican candidate will be held. He also criticized the Republicans for charging for some mass meetings.
"It's like a poll tax . . . . I mean we threw out the poll tax 20 years ago, and we're sure not going back to it now. Yet we have, in a kind of backhanded way," said Parris, adding that if somebody went to court, they could probably stop the practice.
Noting that a substantial amount of the money raised was in Northern Virginia, Parris said that party officials from the area must be allowed to wield more power. "Until now, Richmond has been kind of the power base and we've been kind of the rich stepchild, patted on the head."
The gubernatorial primary between Parris and Durrette was marked by bitterness. Nevertheless, Parris said the prospect of another gubernatorial campaign is attractive to him after spending years in Congress and the state legislature as a member of the minority party.
"You can influence the direction of things, but you can't direct the results, and I've yet to have gotten satisfaction out of just being part of the process," said Parris. "That's what intrigues me about the gubernatorial thing."
He said he knows that some people will take his criticisms as "sour grapes. Well, they're entitled to their opinion. I am interested in winning elections. I've been in the minority all my life . . . . I honestly believe if we continue to practice what I call the politics of exclusion, it will be much longer. I've devoted over 20 years to this, and I don't want anybody to inhibit the growth of the party because of some self-oriented little power stuggle."