Virginia’s Republican Party met at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia over the weekend and spent most of the time trying to figure out how to recover from George Allen’s defeat in November:
As its first official act after Allen’s loss, the GOP’s state central committee chose former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to lead the party. A national figure with proven fundraising and organizing skills, Gillespie vowed to return the party to the winning column in state and federal elections during the next three years.
But he also offered a practical warning for a state party that is at war with itself over the issues of taxes and transportation: Virginia Republicans must find a way to stop bickering with each other.
“Somebody who agrees with me 80 percent of the time is my friend, not my enemy,” Gillespie said. “We are all one party. We can live with differences. But we can’t live with divisions.”
On one side, there are those who think the Virginia GOP needs to compromise if it is to avoid a disaster in the 2007 mid-term elections:
“This is a challenge to our leaders in our legislature to find some common ground,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R). “The voters look at our legislature today and see the fighting between the different factions and say: ‘Are we capable of governing?’ That’s going to be our challenge in 2007.”
Since Allen’s loss, Davis has been in discussions with House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and others in the legislature about how the anti-tax House Republicans can reach a compromise with the state Senate’s more moderate GOP leaders on the issue of transportation.
If something doesn’t happen, he told activists, the Democrats will win more seats, especially in more moderate Northern Virginia.
“I’ve never seen them so emboldened,” he said of Democrats. “They are out-recruiting us and out-raising us. That’s got to stop.”
And on the other, those who see almost no room for compromise:
[T]he GOP’s conservative members, such as State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax), reject the need for compromise. They say the party has to stand firm against higher taxes or risk losing the votes of its most ardent supporters.
“If we don’t stand for something, then it’s just a nice-guy contest,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s not a consistent path either to governance or to victory.”