The cash-strapped party, which had $1,514 in the bank as of Dec. 31, has long put off expensive repairs.
“This staff deserves to have a world-class facility, not the literal ghetto they now live and work and serve in,” Anderson said, as he promised to find a way to make improvements, including a $37,000 fix to its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
The remark, which was live-streamed and posted on the party’s Facebook page, drew a rebuke from the Democratic Party of Virginia.
“If their chairman is being blatantly racist, the RPV’s shabby offices should be the least of their concerns,” said Grant Fox, the Democrats’ spokesman.
Anderson, noting that he has regularly volunteered with a church group to deliver food and make home repairs in inner-city areas, said he was just using a “colloquialism” to describe a building that “has been permitted to decay.” “ ‘Ghetto’ has nothing to do with race,” he said. “It has to do with those neglected segments of society, and those areas are populated by people of all races, creeds and colors.”
Anderson won the chairmanship in August, promising to turn around the fortunes of a party that has not won a statewide election since 2009. A former delegate from Prince William County, Anderson appeared to be referring during the Saturday meeting to the condition of the building, the Richard D. Obenshain Center, not its surroundings in a gentrifying commercial and residential district seven blocks west of the state Capitol.
Republicans on the Zoom call did not visibly react to Anderson’s comments, but one man piped up to remind participants, who had spent part of the meeting in a closed executive session, that they had resumed live-streaming on Facebook.
“We are in open session right now, guys,” he said.
Some meeting participants privately cringed, exchanging text messages among themselves that complained about his choice of words.
“Just when people thought today couldn’t reflect any worse for the Republican Party, the chairman makes that comment,” said one Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
On Sunday morning, the party’s neighbors on East Grace Street were bustling, with people brunching at Perly’s, the upscale deli next door, and sipping drinks at cafe tables outside Stella’s, the gourmet grocer next to that.
The only eyesore on the block was the Obenshain Center, its front windows still boarded up after vandalism in September. The building is named for the former state party chairman who died in a plane crash in 1978 while running for U.S. Senate.
Anderson’s comments came at the end of a heated meeting called to consider reversing the committee’s decision last month to pick its nominee for governor in a convention, open only to party-selected delegates, instead of a statewide primary open to all.
After more than seven hours of parliamentary warfare, the committee reaffirmed its convention choice in a close vote: 39 members for a convention, 36 seeking a primary. The party could take up the matter again before the end of February, the deadline for requesting a state-run primary, but even those advocating for a primary said the chances for change appeared slim.
Choosing a nomination method is often a matter of heated debate. Conservatives tend to favor conventions, because only party-chosen delegates can participate, while moderates usually say primaries open to all voters will grow the GOP and avoid the nomination of fringe candidates.
Those arguments have been upended this time, with a Donald Trump-style contender, state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield), opposed to a convention, because she says party leaders would rig it against her. Another all-but-declared contender — Glenn Youngkin, a former Carlyle Group executive whose personal wealth would be a bigger advantage in a primary — also appears to be part of the equation, with some Youngkin foes pushing for a convention.
The coronavirus pandemic is another problem. Crowd-size restrictions meant to limit the spread of the virus could make it impossible to hold a traditional convention, a day-long affair in which thousands of delegates from across the state gather under one roof.
Anderson said Saturday that he will ask party staffers to come up with a plan and report back to the committee.