Tom Kopko, Chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee, sent out a stunning email yesterday in response to a Washington Post article that appeared in today’s edition regarding his improper actions on behalf of the Faisal Gill campaign. Several elected officials are uncomfortable, concerned and upset more because of Tom Kopko’s reaction to the criticism than the underlying issues, which still remain troubling. Committee members are talking about removing Kopko if he does not resign, as this situation has gone from bad to horrible as a result of this ill-advised entry by the chairman into open warfare with candidates seeking the Republican nomination. Trying to outdo the circus that is the Loudoun County Republican Committee has done nothing to resolve the situation.
Tom’s email starts out with a substantial broadside where he claims that Julie Lucas told him that she wanted to ensure Democrats participated in the nomination process:
But, the reporter got it wrong, or Julie Lucas never told him, that on January 4th Julie argued for a primary specifically so that Democrats could be included. She said they were her base, given her current seat. Talk about being stunned. I utterly rejected the notion. (emphasis in original)
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Julie Lucas knows this is utterly ridiculous. Are we to believe that Julie Lucas, someone who currently holds elected office as a Republican, thinks that she would need help from Democrats in order to prevail over someone never elected to office who’s most recent claim to fame is that he was the press spokesman for the 2006 Steve Chapman campaign? Outlandish statements like this might be expected from Eugene Delgaudio, but demonstrate a troubling decent by Tom Kopko, who as party chairman should at least be maintaining some appearance of impartiality and fairness, firmly into the mud as a bought and paid for negative campaign spokesman for Faisal Gill. Given what we’ve seen so far, asking for a primary given the current PWCRC leadership would seem to be a reasonable attempt to insulate the candidate selection process from Tom Kopko.
Next up is Kopko’s persistently claimed fantasy that he was unaware that Lucas would file:
Julie also gives the impression that she essentially informed me of her candidacy on Jan. 4. Not even close. She told me, and many others, throughout January that she had so many offices to consider that she just couldn’t make up her mind. As late as Jan. 25 she told a women’s group that she still hadn’t made up her mind. The fact is, Julie’s decision was in the air all the way up until she submitted her filing just 4 hours before the deadline on January 29. (emphasis in the original)
The reason this fantasy persists is that Tom Kopko’s crowd tried as hard as possible to convince Julie to run against Senator Toddy Puller, and even recruited Ken Cuccinelli to plead with her to enter that race in order to clear a path for Faisal Gill in the 51st District. Convinced that this grand plan would work, Kopko signed onto the Faisal Gill payroll not for a moment believing that Julie’s intentions to run in the 51st District, which were clearly evident to myself and Jim Riley back in November, and reported in the Washington Post a year before that, would be fulfilled in the face of his grand plan. With the incumbent office holder Delegate Michele McQuigg publicly waffling about her intentions until very late in the game, seemingly making a 51st bid potentially troublesome, and the pressure to take on Toddy Puller, Kopko was convinced that Julie Lucas would take the easy route. Perhaps this helps readers understand why Michele McQuigg got involved in the Faisal Gill campaign when to everyone else this is a race she should have kept her distance from.
Lucas did not take the seemingly easy route laid out for her, although with the pressure to conform to the succession plan a public announcement of that decision was considerably delayed. With so many people asking Julie to run for so many different offices, and the terrain of the 51st District being intentionally obfuscated in order to promote an established succession plan, no wonder it took until the last minute to announce her intentions. Yet even as early as January 4th, Tom is recognizing a real possibility that Julie will run in the 51st House District and is discussing with her the nomination method to be used in the district. Although Julie probably never realized it, assuming that Kopko was dealing with her above-board, that conversation was all about pushing Julie into the 36th District Senate race. Now it’s turned into a weapon against her by the chairman whose job it is to ensure a fair candidate selection process.
Later on, Kopko tries to defend his status as a paid political consultant to the Faisal Gill campaign even before the candidate filing deadline has expired:
Of course, it isn’t mentioned there are plenty of examples of chairmen who run fair processes while doing contract work for or having a financial relationship with a candidate. One need look just a little north to Fairfax to find a large, prime example. Examination of almost every race shows how commonplace it is. The State Board of Elections and the Republican Party of Virginia concur there’s no problem. In other words, this is much ado about nothing.
This is a pretty interesting swipe at former FCRC Chairman Eric Lundberg, who has never been a paid political consultant to any campaign, either during a primary or in a general election campaign, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. There’s been some debate about whether this is a common practice, as Tom puts it, but so far no one seems to have come up with an example of any unit chairman actually doing this, no matter how many races we look at. The only example proffered by anyone as far as I can tell regards Kevin Gentry who did fundraising work for Kilgore and McDonnell. He is a former State Central Committee member, not a unit chairman, and did not work on a local race in which he could have had a conflict of interest. This claim appears to be an outright fabrication delivered to the members of the committee which he serves, although perhaps since Kopko mentioned widespread unethical practices among Fairfax County Republicans he will do us the service of specifying exactly who the LCRC needs to more closely inspect in order to more substantiate his claim. Otherwise this has all the appearances of an intentional lie.
Bringing Ed Gillespie into this discussion, as if Kopko requested pre-clearance from RPV before he made the decision to accept money from Faisal Gill, puts RPV in a rather difficult situation. While RPV did come down in the aftermath of the disclosure of Kopko’s paid relationship with Gill, and did state that there was nothing in the Party Plan which prohibited such relationships, Kopko is trying to force RPV into a situation where they dismiss ethical concerns and strictly rely on whether something is specifically prohibited or not. I am reminded of excuses of “no controlling authority” by Al Gore in reference to using government resources for the Clinton campaign and statements by Democrats that 21 year old staffers having sex with a married president is not illegal. If we are to remain consistent with our principles, the “it’s not against the law” excuse cannot stand. Putting Ed Gillespie in such a position by Tom Kopko is completely reckless. This is not the standard of behavior expected by a unit chairman.
Then Tom lays out his plan for ensuring a fair process in the 51st District:
To that end, I am continuing to work in a spirit of agreement and accommodation. I am happy to announce that the campaigns have agreed upon Pat O’Leary as convention chairman. Pat is a former chairman of the combined PWC-Manassas committee and is well known and liked. He has also graciously agreed to work with me in the other convention preparations to ensure each campaign is satisfied with the processes and, ultimately, the convention’s result. We are targeting a May 10 meeting with the campaigns to finalize convention committee personnel and optimize convention processes for a fair, quick, and efficient convention.
Kopko is still the chairman of the 51st District Committee, and the only member of that committee which exercises ultimate power over the selection process, and Kopko retains veto authority over everything that happens in this convention. Immediately after displaying anything other than “a spirit of agreement and accommodation” in every preceding part of this email, and his demonstrated bias, we are to expect that Kopko’s selection of O’Leary as chairman of the convention is supposed to allay our concerns? It’s the chairman of the legislative district, who retains all the power to select those who set the rules, validate delegate filing forms, and manage the details of the convention which has the power to influence the outcome of the process. Selecting a good, albeit somewhat elderly man who is not likely prepared for what may await him at a convention, to man the gavel hardly alleviates well-justified concerns.
This email is an abomination. It harms the party, it harms the candidates, and the outright lies it contains tarnishes every member of the committee. Tom Kopko must resign in order to restore any semblance of dignity that the committee can retain in the aftermath of his reprehensible behavior. To do less than that demonstrates that we value politics over principle, which would be most detrimental to our worthiness as a political party in Prince William County. I’ve cherished that when confronted by corruption within our ranks, we responsibly and rapidly excise the problem rather than try to gloss over it. Now is the test for the PWCRC to demonstrate it’s collective sense of honor, if that honor is not shown by it’s discredited chairman.
Kopko must go. The only question should be how that is accomplished.
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