Russ Moulton, a longtime conservative activist in Virginia, is described by Republicans as the behind-the-scenes leader of their party’s state organization, even though he has no formal title. Although Moulton denies the lofty status, he acknowledges that the faction he helped organize, the Conservative Fellowship, now controls the party’s state central committee.
Here are outtakes from an e-mail interview with Moulton, 53, the owner of a tech firm who lives in Fredericksburg:
● On whether he controls the Republican Party of Virginia: “I am flattered, but no. If only I had the power some ascribe to me. What’s really going on is there are now lots of great new grass-roots-oriented conservative leaders on the State Central Committee who are no longer in the pockets of consultants or elected officials.”
● On what ails Virginia’s GOP, which hasn’t won a statewide election since 2009: “What has really hurt Republicans most statewide is that we’ve damaged our Republican brand: huge state tax hikes in 2004, 2007 and 2013, bigger government, lobbying scandals, near expansion of Medicaid in a tax-budget deal the Speaker and Gov. McDonnell made with Democrats, CROMNIBUS and funding executive amnesty and Obamacare.
● On his political roots: “My parents never identified with any party politically. At the Naval Academy as a plebe, we weren’t permitted to watch TV but we were permitted to watch the 1980 Reagan-Carter debates. Reagan inspired me in those debates — patriotism, liberty, limited government, free market, strong national defense, protecting life — it all made sense to me.”
● On why he prefers nominating conventions to primaries: “We support conventions not out of any favoritism for a particular candidate, but because we feel they are best to grow our party and to give our base voters a meaningful choice. They grow our grass-roots activist and voluntary base, and raise needed revenues for our party grass-roots operations.”
● On why he opposes primaries: “There is no party registration in VA, so Democrats openly participate in our nominations. This makes it particularly hard to hold Republican elected officials accountable at re-nomination time when they’ve voted badly. Open primaries leave our party with no resources for the general election — while consultants line their pockets. Open primaries pit our candidates against each other in multimillion-dollar big-media TV ad campaigns in front of all voters. Meanwhile, our successful nominee emerges bloodied with the public and financially drained for the general election.”
● On the Conservative Fellowship:
“The fellowship is an informal ad-hoc caucus of pro-convention conservatives on the State Central Committee, committed to building a grass-roots focused party that will take VA red again. . . . I often serve as a facilitator, building consensus within the caucus as to what’s best for our party.”