Category Archives: Republican Party

An Open Letter of Thanks to RPV’s Mike Thomas


Dear Mike,

You did it again — stepped in as interim chair to fill the vacuum left when John Whitbeck resigned in July — and the Republican Party of Virginia once again owes you a big thanks. You kept the party going until a replacement was voted on at today’s State Central Committee meeting.

Congratulations to new Chairman Jack Wilson who will finish out Whitbeck’s term.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? As First Vice Chairman of the party, serving as interim chair is a role you have served a number of times in the past to preserve continuity in leadership. You have been asked before to take on the role yourself but you always said no. You seem to thrive working in the background, not in the spotlight of politics — always the reliable wind beneath the wings of whomever was chairman at the time.

The party owes you a huge debt of gratitude also for being the pillar that you are with a steady hand and even temperament and reliability to carry us through the rough patches. Your institutional knowledge is legendary — you are a walking encyclopedia of Virginia Republican politics — and we are amazed at your darn near perfect recall of facts.

During the battles that have occurred between factions, you have worked with all sides, listening and mediating and seemingly always available. Throughout the years not only have you worked with the grassroots but also with countless Republican elected officials who have turned to you for the same measured advice so appreciated by others.

For all that that and so much more, we thank you.

I looked through my photo archives from the past two decades because you know how I like to take pictures at Republican events. You’ve never told me no when I asked for a pic, patiently enduring my shutterbug over the years. Often what people don’t see in the photos I’ve snapped of elected officials is you off to the side, not seeking the limelight but every bit as important as those pictured.

So I compiled a few of those pictures from the multiple GOP events where we have run into each other. I have lots more but will save them for another time.

Just one more thing. Your friendship with many, patience with all, and wisdom from years of experience are truly appreciated by a party that probably doesn’t deserve you. I can just imagine that, as you handed over the gavel today to the new chair, you possibly gave a sigh of relief at resuming your role as First Vice Chair. All I know if we’re all grateful for your leadership. Thanks, Mike.



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At Burgers With Bill Bolling, June 2017. Richmond.

Mike Thomas August 2018
At son Alec’s wedding in August 2018.


The Republican Advance at The Homestead, 2011.

mike-thomas-5-w-trixie-john-hagerTrixie Averill, former. Lt. Gov. John Hager, and Mike at the RPV State Convention in 2016.

mike-thomas-6Mike and son Alec at State Central Committee meeting in Staunton, 2015.

mike-thomas-7At Burgers With Bill Bolling, 2014.


mike-thomas-9Republican Advance in Williamsburg 2009.

mike-thomas-10Election Night 2009 — Republicans swept Top 3 gubernatorial spots.

mike-thomas-11-familyMike with son Alec and daughter Ashley at one of Eric Cantor’s Republican Roundups.


Photobombed by RTD’s Jeff Schapiro while talking with former Gov. Bob McDonnell, 2016.

mike-thomas-13Republican Roundup. Maybe 2012?

mike-thomas-14-juanita-ballenger-2011With Juanita Ballenger at Republican Roundup in 2011.


mike-thomas-16With Paul Galanti and Judi Lynch.

mike-thomas-17With Susan Allen.

mike-thomas-18-ben-marchiWith Ben Marchi.


mike-thomas-20-martin-brownWith Martin Brown.



mike-thomas-23With Donald and Nancy Williams.

mike-thomas-24-rpv-conv-2011RPV State Convention 2009.

mike-thomas-24-with-mom-cal-2007With my parents at the Republican Roundup in 2007.

mike-thomas-25-at-geo-allen-house-2011Barbecue at Susan and George Allen’s house in 2012.

With Polly Campbell, State Central Committee Secretary for 40 years, at the Republican Roundup.

With longtime GOP activist Trixie Averill. Election night 2009 in RVA.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift


Low Polling Numbers Plague Trump, Congress

Being Republican means walking on egg shells these days as an atmosphere permeates the party that pointing out the obvious is frowned upon. But when national polling numbers continue to show the GOP and its president’s approval ratings in the cellar, there has to be concern and questions about the direction the party is going.

Quinnipiac’s latest poll released Wednesday, compiled before the firing of FBI Director James Comey, continues the bad approval ratings that have been rolling out of D.C. The president’s approval rating is 35 percent, down five points from April 19, with a whopping 58 percent disapproval.

Perhaps one of the starkest revelations was the sharp drop of support with Independents who gave the president a 29 percent approval rating, down 10 points since April 19. That means 63 percent of Independent voters disapprove of this president.

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2017 GOP Primary Candidates Listed, Chuck Smith Fails to Make Ballot for AG

On Friday the Republican Party of Virginia released the list of 2017 Republican Primary candidates who qualified for the June 13 ballot.

Missing from the list was Virginia Beach attorney Chuck Smith who was vying to run for attorney general.

From the RPV press release:

Earlier today, RPV Chairman John Whitbeck sent a letter to the Virginia State Board of Elections certifying the following candidates met the legal requirements to appear on the June 13 Republican Primary Ballot.
They are (listed in order of office and pre-check qualification):
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Trump Tweets Petty New Year’s Eve Message

For all to read, a New Year’s Eve message was tweeted on December 31, 2016, by Donald Trump who will take over the reins as president of the United States in three weeks:

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!

His message, which could have been positive and uplifting as he prepares to enter the White House, is instead a mockery of his opponents.

Then there’s the optimism of President George W. Bush’s New Year’s Eve message on December 31, 2002, less than four months after the 9/11 terrorism attacks on America:

The past year has been a time of achievement, progress, and renewed hope for the American people. As our citizens continue to demonstrate a spirit of resolve and unity, we are building a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility that strengthens our country and offers hope to those in need. To counter new threats, we are enhancing security at home, and we are part of the global coalition against terrorism that has made significant progress in opposing the forces of tyranny and oppression.

We will continue our efforts to secure America, win the war on terrorism, focus on education, promote compassion, create new jobs, and ensure the economic security of all our citizens. As we move forward into the New Year, I encourage all Americans to give thanks to the Almighty for His many blessings, and to join with me in reaffirming our commitment to helping people around the world achieve peace and freedom.

At the dawn of this New Year, America is a land of justice, liberty, and tolerance. We will work together to build on our successes and embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a Happy New Year. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States.


The President offered optimism, gave thanks to God for his blessings, and sent best wishes for the New Year while asking God to continue to bless America. That’s leadership. That’s what would be nice to see in the New Year.

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Happy Birthday, Mike Thomas … and Thank You


Mike Thomas, First Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee, has a birthday today. What would Virginia Republicans do without this pillar of the party whose steady hand and even temperament have carried us through many rough patches. His institutional knowledge is legend — he is a walking encyclopedia of Virginia Republican politics. During the battles between factions that occur, he has worked with all sides, listening and mediating and seemingly always available.  For that, we owe him a big thank you. I hope he is enjoying his birthday without politics interfering for this one day.

I went through my photo archives and looked for pics of Mike from the past 14 years at Republican events around the Commonwealth. Here are a few of them. Thanks, Mike — your friendship and wisdom are truly appreciated. Happy Birthday!

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GOP ‘Election Autopsy’ of 2012 … Did They Live Up To It in 2016?

GOP elephants fighting

After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s devastating loss in 2012, the GOP looked inward and came up with an honest critique of what the party needed to do to move forward into 2016 and beyond. The critique was commonly known as the 2012 election autopsy that suggested a kinder and more compassionate party was needed — a party that was more inclusive of minorities and women and young people.

Talking Points Memo broke it down into six main highlights:

1. Pass Immigration Reform Yesterday

… the party’s standing with Latino voters has gotten so dangerously low that the RNC’s report openly begs Republicans to change their position in defiance of the party’s own 2012 platform.

2. Listen To Minorities

Much of the report is about encouraging Republicans to listen not just to Republican minorities, but to reach out to black, Hispanic, and Asian American voters in their own communities. The reason: arithmetic.

3. Gays Aren’t Going Away

It’s not a coincidence that more Republicans are endorsing gay marriage: gay rights has gone from a wedge issue against Democrats in 2004 to a topic President Obama actively highlighted in his 2012 campaign.

The RNC’s report doesn’t come out for marriage equality, but it warns that the party needs to move left on gay issues, not so much because gays are an important voting bloc, but because intolerance scares off other groups of voters, too.

“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be,” the report reads.

4. Epistemic Closure Is Real

There’s been a long running debate on the intellectual right about whether the GOP suffers from “epistemic closure,” a condition in which conservatives block out all dissenting voices until eventually their own arguments sound nonsensical to anyone who doesn’t already agree with them. The RNC report concludes this is a real and growing problem.

5. Look To The States

The RNC report makes a careful distinction between federal Republicans — bad! — and state Republicans — good! The GOP currently holds 30 governorships and many of them, like Chris Christie in New Jersey and John Kasich in Ohio, have been both moving to the center and gaining in popularity recently. They stand in stark contrast to House Republicans, who have more conservative constituencies and typically have been more inflexible in their views.

6. Stop Being The Rich Guys

Less than year after nominating a millionaire investor who proclaimed that “corporations are people,” the RNC is concerned that the party has become too closely tied with wealthy interests.

Looking at these six points, how did the GOP do in 2016 in fulfilling its 2012 critique of itself?

Powhatan GOP’s Overturned Mass Meeting Going to State Central

Jean Gannon 10At the April 5, 2016, Powhatan County Republican Committee mass meeting, Jean Gannon won the chairman position with 131 votes. Pat McSweeney lost with 99 votes. In the world of McSweeney and Friends, that meant appeal, and his allies on the 7th Congressional District Committee handed the lost chairman’s seat back to him.

For the past few years there has been a steady stream of longtime Virginia Republican volunteers purged from committees on one pretense or another because they were not in favor with those in charge. On July 16, the purging of Republicans continued as members of the 7th Congressional District voted after a four-hour meeting to overturn the April 5 Powhatan County Republican Committee mass meeting.

It was yet another case of someone disgruntled because they lost an election but, lacking solid grounds for reversing the results, challenged it on the basis of something they did themselves. In this case, the appeal has been a moving target ever since McSweeney began the process, including a missed deadline to file the appeal. The entire process has been a complete corruption of the system. This is the Republican Party, not Al Gore constantly trying to figure out how voters intended to vote. Mr. McSweeney should have been honorable about his loss, as Ms. Gannon was in 2014, and he should have planned to run again in two years. These games are beneath the dignity of the GOP.

Unfortunately, the 7th Congressional District did what committees should not do. McSweeney’s allies made their decision based on who they wanted — an ally as unit chair — not on the facts.

The July 16, 2016, appeal meeting
By a vote of 11-4 (with 3 abstaining), the 7th District: 1) overturned the April 5 mass meeting; 2) handed the chair position back to Pat McSweeney who had appealed his 131-99 loss to Jean Gannon; 3) reinstalled committee officers under McSweeney — vice chair, secretary, treasurer; 4) instructed Powhatan GOP to conduct another mass meeting.

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Trump Says It’s Too Far From Alaska But What’s the Real Reason Palin Will Not Be in Cleveland?

Donald Trump, Sarah Palin 1For those Sarah Palin fans out there who were hoping to see her at the Republican National Convention, forget it. She’s not going to attend.


Yep, you heard that right. It’s too far for her to travel from Alaska to Cleveland so she’s staying home. At least, that’s what The Donald himself was quoted as saying:

“She was asked,” Donald Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview Thursday. “It’s a little bit difficult because of where she is. We love Sarah. Little bit difficult because of, you know, it’s a long ways away.”

Wait. Sarah endorsed The Donald. She hit some campaign stops with him. And now she’s not going to make the trip to Cleveland?

The Washington Examiner noted it was an 11-hour flight for Palin to travel from Alaska to Ohio.

If that’s too far, then how was it that earlier this year she traveled throughout the lower 48, including a March Florida Trump rally in Tampa, to help her guy?

By my unscientific calculations, Alaska to Florida is a distance of roughly 3,800 miles or approximately 13 hours in the air … so we’re to believe she was willing to travel a greater distance to campaign than to speak at the nominating convention of the candidate she supported?

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The politics of personal destruction aka the GOP circular firing squad

Republican elephantPower and ambition can be an intoxicating cocktail in politics.

It’s 9:30 Friday night and I just got off the phone with someone in Republican politics that I have respected and worked with in the past.

We were part of RPV’s Media Committee in 2009-10, working to better communications for the Republican Party of Virginia. I was chairman of the blogger committee. He was techie everything. We had a common goal: we worked together to advance and support Republicans.

We worked the 2009 RPV Convention when delegates elected Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Ken Cuccinelli to be our top three candidates.

In November, we overwhelmingly swept all three top spots: Governor Bob McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. We rejoiced.

In December we went to the Republican Advance in Williamsburg where we held a post-election New Media seminar in the auditorium that was packed and standing room only.

He worked the technical part.

I moderated the panel of five young Republicans who had been instrumental in the communication side of our three-way Republican sweep. Our brightest and best.

The seminar was a smashing success, and many said they learned much by hearing from our panel that included Tucker Martin, Vincent Harris, Krystal Weeks, Ford O’Connell, and Jason Kenney.

Throughout the years we worked Bloggers Row at Republican events: Republican Round-ups, Eric Cantor’s Breakfast (here and here), Advance events including debates.

And then the party split.

We began bickering. The bloodbath that had been avoided in 2009 was now in full swing. Egos got in the way as one candidate leap-frogged over another, going against his word and tearing the party apart at the seams.

And we began losing.

Politics is a winner’s game.

The winner reaches out and pulls in the losing opponent. And the opponent’s supporters.

That never happened in 2013. The winner changed the rules of the game, then left the opponent’s supporters out in the cold. And that is where we are to this day. On top of that, the “winner” lost in the general election.

The fragile state of a split party weakened the infrastructure and allowed others to come in, and they began taking over with the help of the winner and his supporters who had lost the general.

As a result, the opponent’s supporters were kicked out one by one by one. Years of institutional knowledge, volunteering, leadership, and financial donations — gone. Kicked to the curb. And when those who were thrown to the curb fell to the ground, many were then kicked in the ribs.

My friend from the media committee is on that side of the battle. And that brings us to the hit piece on his blog on Friday that led to this post. Thinking back about the past, it made me shake my head at how things have gotten where they are. My friend’s blog using anonymous sources that everyone knows can and usually are made up. False rumors without a response from the subject of the blog who, incidentally, is up for reelection for his state central seat on Saturday. There was no interview with the slandered party, no opportunity to respond.

It’s a Machiavellian approach that Republicans are using against Republicans.

Will we ever reunite the party? Not under the leadership espoused by my friend. But there are many within the party who believe in the Reagan “80 percent” philosophy, and who believe in working together.

The subject of this 11th hour hit piece — the one who was not given the opportunity to respond — is one of them. He has worked fairly and tirelessly with all sides, putting in hours and hours of time. His respectful approach to those who have differing opinions is an example to aspire to, not to crush. He believes that just because we disagree doesn’t make someone our enemy. He believes we need to focus on the party because we have far too much to do … we need to row in the same direction … root for the same team.

Our party is losing. We need to win. We haven’t won a statewide race in five years. This man has been winning for Virginia Republicans since the 1990s. Yet, to my media committee friend, he’s the enemy.

I would like to see the day when the party stops ambushing each other. We will not survive otherwise.

UPDATE: I’m happy to say the eleventh-hour hit piece did not work.

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Trump fails to fill Richmond Coliseum for Friday campaign rally

Pictures and reports show that the Donald Trump rally in Richmond, Virginia, Friday night failed to fill the 12,000-seat Coliseum. This is a campaign that is used to turning people away at the door.

Here are Tweets with photos leading up to and after the rally began (see PHOTOS: Donald Trump’s Richmond rally draws unusually small crowd).

The Hill reported, ” ‘This arena is 25 percent full at best. No line outside either,’ the tweet said, with 30 minutes until the scheduled start time”  (see Trump’s Virginia rally draws smaller crowd).

Some reports said the crowd filled one-quarter to one-half of the venue, far below its maximum seating. The Washington Post wrote, “A half-full coli­seum erupted into Indian war whoops as Donald Trump called a U.S. senator ‘Pocahontas’ on Friday at a rally here, where the mogul-candidate was back to his teleprompter-free ways” (see Trump apologizes for Pocahontas remark — to Pocahontas).

There will surely be more on this as pundits speculate on the reasons Trump was off his mark in Virginia’s capital city.

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2016 RPV convention photos #1 at JMU

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Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte and wife Maryellen

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Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor John Hager and Trixie Averill. John has been everywhere and done everything for the Republican Party of Virginia so when he was not chosen as a delegate to the national convention, it was disappointing that his long years of supporting the party was not recognized. Trixie was former 6th Congressional District Chairman, former RPV Western Vice Chairwoman, Virginia Director of Americans for Prosperity, and a staffer for numerous campaigns including George Allen, Jim Gilmore, Bob McDonnell, and Bill Bolling.

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2016 RPV Convention: Friday wrap-up

DSCN0935 (2)Trixie Averill, Lt. Governor John Hager, Mike Thomas

Three of my favorite Republicans — years of working for the Republican Party of Virginia.

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The arena was actually quite nice if you could get over that it doesn’t have internet. Seats rising from the floor had a more gentle rise than some venues we have been in with steep stairs to climb to the top. Media tables were set up on both sides of the floor and, when I arrived at 11:30am, I had my choice of any seat there so picked the area right in front of Augusta County’s delegate seats.

We arrived early and immediately ran into Julie Coggsdale hanging at the registration area — which was nicely set up with no wait – along with Frank Loehr and Jeb Wilkinson — great Republicans, all. When I made my way to the convention floor, there sat Garren Shipley — yay, Garren — on his laptop so a quick chat with him before setting up. As more people arrived, more familiar faces were seen, and I was in the perfect spot.

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2016 RPV Convention: State chair drama, elections, hobnobbing

Today is the opening of the two-day Republican Party of Virginia State Convention in Harrisonburg, Virginia — home of my son’s alma mater James Madison University, food trucks, craft beer breweries, cidery, and vineyards, eateries, and scenic vistas from almost anywhere in the city of the surrounding Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains.

I’ll be in the media area representing Bearing Drift and as well as roaming the arena with my camera so please stop by to say hello. I’d love to get a picture for the blog. Bearing Drift writers will be out in force: Jim Hoeft, Rollin Reisinger, Matt Hall, Susan Sili, J.R. Spiker, and myself.
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Former AG Jerry Kilgore replaces Snyder as RPV Finance Chair

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is no stranger to Virginia politics, and now he will again actively step in to help the Republican Party of Virginia as their new Finance Chairman.

Kilgore, who has served the Republican Party in many capacities throughout his almost forty years of activism in Republican Party politics, was instrumental in precinct organization in Scott County before being elected to serve as the Ninth Congressional Committee Chair in Southwestern Virginia. He served as RPV Counsel for four years, engaging with Party leaders and activists on organizational and legal issues.

He has served as a Finance Chair and Co-Chair for many statewide candidates, including former Governor Bob McDonnell and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. Kilgore was the State Co-Chair for the presidential campaigns of former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator John McCain, and most recently supported presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Throughout the years he has served in leadership positions in a number of other local, state, and national campaigns.

During the administration of Governor George Allen, Kilgore served as Secretary of Public Safety, overseeing the eleven public safety agencies in Virginia. In 2001, he was elected attorney general, and was the Virginia Republican nominee for Governor in 2005. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor at McGuire Woods Consulting, co-chairing the Multistate Practice area.
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Live-blogging Powhatan GOP mass meeting: Jean Gannon defeats Pat McSweeney

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[This is the original post from Tuesday night’s Bearing Drift live-blog in Powhatan.]

Jean Gannon 2

Incumbent chairman and tea party-Russ Moulton Fellowship member Pat McSweeney will be challenged tonight by Republican volunteer and activist Jean Gannon who has been involved with the Republican Woman as well as the Powhatan GOP committee.

6:15: Voters are arriving for the meeting that will begin at 7pm.

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Jean Gannon 1

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