In April the Prince William County Republican Committee will select new leadership, capping off several months of behind-the-scenes jockeying for position that began about a year ago when the Tom Kopko faction of the committee began it’s quest to install Faisal Gill in the House of Delegates. After a pretty strong start as Chairman, Kopko managed to erode his position with a series of embarrassing gaffes, and then toss away whatever remaining credibility he had with some ham-handed attempts to dictate the outcome of the candidate selection process. As a result, the committee’s membership has plunged, and the committee itself is a rather hollow shell of the political powerhouse it once was, and only made marginally credible by the even more dramatic implosion of the PWCDC. Soon there will be a chance to change direction.
At this point even Tom Kopko realizes that getting re-elected isn’t going to happen. Without the support of elected officials, and deserted by all but a hard-core cadre of party loyalists, anyone running as an alternative choice would walk away with a win. The Kopko loyalists talked up a shocking alternative candidate for a while — Faisal Gill, fresh off his November defeat by an absolute political neophyte, and who is in sore need of some serious credential building if he were ever to run for office again. Within a few weeks, I’m told that wiser heads prevailed, and this faction has likely settled on Chris Royse as a candidate, who is a rather interesting choice.
Although Chris failed in his bid to become Woodbridge Supervisor, he is well liked and has earned broad respect from party activists. While not a hugely experienced party stalwart by any means, he is rightly viewed as principled, fair and ideologically acceptable by many, if not all, within the PWCRC. About the only thing missing from his resume is extensive experience in party politics, which the last several years have demonstrated is pretty important if only to spot the political icebergs in the path of this ship as it navigates some pretty treacherous political waters before the party inexorably crashes into them. Other than that weakness, Chris Royse is a tremendous candidate for this position and would easily garner substantial support within the party’s conservative base.
The anti-Kopko alternative is Lyle Beefeldt. Lyle is more a party technocrat, and brings a huge amount of experience, and a lot of that is from the side of those whom the Kopko crowd has attempted to marginalize or otherwise prevent from participating in the candidate selection process. While some of the candidates Lyle has helped might not make the conservative center-of-mass within the PWCRC exactly jubilant (Lucy Beauchamp comes to mind), his experience with the effects of trying to ram a chosen candidate through the nomination process is incredibly valuable. It would be hard to find anyone more dedicated to ensuring a fair candidate selection process than the same person who worked overtime to try to rescue it from the corruption which had so thoroughly infested it under Kopko. Beefeldt would strongly appeal to the “big tent” Republicans, and those who figure that regardless of ideology, a fair process ensures that the better candidates win. Conservatives would then have to actually run strong and competitive campaigns in order to win, rather than rely on a party chairman’s heavy thumb to tip the scales.
So this race could well come down to a contest between ideology versus competence, since there really isn’t much else to distinguish between these two likely candidates other than who is supporting them. They’re both solid, and any party unit would be rather lucky to be lead by either of them. Of course there are the broader strategic concerns, which won’t likely be the subject of open discussion, but may overshadow the outcome here.
Despite the conservative bent of the committee, the elected county officials don’t entirely represent a dominant conservative ideology, with Marty Nohe and Maureen Caddigan being frequent targets of conservative’s ire. Both had attempted challengers this last election cycle, with Tom Kopko putatively challenging Nohe, and Caddigan getting a weak primary challenge from Charles Brewer courtesy of Corey Stewart and Tom Kopko. The political payback has been occasionally difficult, with Caddigan openly supporting Sharon Pandak in the last election. Nohe has been far more adept at simply waiting out the problem from a position of political strength instead of letting it fester into open warfare, but Caddigan has been determined to fight back at every opportunity and has been poisoning whatever opportunity for reconciliation that may have ever existed.
Screwing over Maureen Caddigan in whatever way may be possible has thus become a prime objective of a wide swath of the committee, and this crosses the pro and anti Tom Kopko factions. Whatever one’s complaints may be with Tom Kopko, his methods of exacting revenge are quiet, out of the public eye, and delivered with a smile. Caddigan relishes in trying to publicly humiliate anyone she doesn’t care for, drawing much more universal disdain for not only being a frequent roadblock to conservative legislative priorities, but being a classless wench while doing it. Picking fights with Corey Stewart on the dais, calling out county residents by name during Supervisor’s Time, and campaigning for Democrats while running for office as a Republican is outrageous. Anyone who runs for PWCRC Chairman and gives an indication that they’re going to use the power of that office to derail any political future for Maureen Caddigan is going to be pretty popular with party stalwarts. Will Chris Royse do this? He might be smart to.
Or perhaps not, since this strategy hasn’t worked so far. No matter how the party leadership may be able to hamstring one of it’s elected officials, nothing will ever change unless a suitable candidate can effectively challenge her and win. Knocking off an entrenched incumbent in a primary challenge is no easy task, but unless the real nuts and bolts of party leadership — candidate development, building the committee, and amassing a volunteer army are done, there’s little that a party unit chairman can otherwise do to rid themselves of a troublesome heretical elected official. You don’t effect change through harassing incumbents, you do so by creating better alternatives.
So while the Kopko crowd can promote their candidate as a means of ridding the electorate of Maureen Caddigan, ideology here really means little. Building a party, smoothly managing party operations, and flawlessly running a candidate selection process, while a longer-term effort than finding that one opportunity to effectively screw someone over, is the only dependable way to achieve the desired outcome. About the only strategic objective the Tom Kopko faction of the party can offer is doing whatever possible to knock off Maureen Caddigan as soon as it can, but the implementation of this goal is difficult, if not impossible. The alternative, while much less emotionally appealing, is to simply execute the typical long-term party building operation that will make it more likely that an effective candidate to replace Caddigan can be found and run a credible campaign, although this is far from the quick-fix some would yearn for.
If these are the two candidates for PWCRC Chairman, these external issues will hopefully be insignificant, although there will likely be perceived political advantages in dragging them in. The likely candidates have a lot to offer by themselves, and should be able to offer strong reasons why they should be selected based on their qualities and experience alone. This isn’t a selection for the purpose of delivering whatever required level of political payback to Maureen Caddigan is called for, it’s for choosing the right helmsman for a difficult job where charting out a good course and keeping it is critical for future Republican success in Prince William County. Fortunately the choices here are looking pretty good.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
You can follow the discussion through the Comments feed.