The day after Virginia voters sent two new Republicans to Congress, the chairman of the state Republican Party announced his retirement by declaring a job well done.
Pat Mullins, 77, in recent years has overseen a party deeply divided between moderate Republicans and a tea-party-influenced insurgency whose power was felt this spring when Dave Brat defeated Eric Cantor, then the House majority leader, in the GOP primary in the 7th Congressional District.
Starting with a 2012 plan by supporters of gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II, the new conservative coalition began to assume seats in the party’s governing body, the state central committee. It will be up to the committee to choose Mullins’s successor — and the party’s future — at a meeting Jan. 31.
The chairman sets the party’s agenda, has a vote on the committee and, perhaps most important, helps with fundraising, a critical need since Cantor was defeated in June.
The committee also chooses how the party nominates candidates; the choices are a state-run primary open to all voters or a convention attended by only the party’s most committed activists. Conventions tend to produce the most conservative candidates, as was the case last year when Democrats swept all three statewide races by painting the Republican candidates as out of touch with Virginia’s changing electorate.
“Government has gotten too big, too intrusive, and unelected bureaucrats are having more and more negative impact on all of our lives,” Mullins said in a statement Wednesday.
He has run the party for five years, and before that he was chairman of the county GOP in Fairfax and Louisa counties.
“Serving as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia since 2009 has been one of the greatest honors and privileges I’ve had in my life,” he said. “I’ll be forever thankful to the Republicans across Virginia who have placed their trust and support in me. I’ve worked with thousands of dedicated Republican and conservative activists across the Commonwealth for our shared principles.”
Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) praised Mullins for bringing “stability and consistency” to the party and highlighted his distaste for the times when party squabbles play out in the news media.
“I’ve known Pat for a long time and consider him a great friend. Pat often says loudly what many of us are thinking quietly, especially when it comes to the media. We will miss his candor and sense of humor. On behalf of the entire House Republican Caucus, thank you to Pat for his service and best wishes in the years ahead,” Howell said in a statement.
Mullins also congratulated Brat and Barbara J. Comstock for their victories Tuesday. Comstock won the House seat in the 10th District, in the Washington suburbs. And he applauded the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate.
“This was a great Election Day for America,” he said.
Mullins added that he plans to spend his retirement traveling and visiting with his children and grandchildren.