Repost from The Roanoke Times
By ANDREW CAIN | Richmond Times-Dispatch | Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore on Monday urged the Republican Party of Virginia to craft a more inclusive message as it seeks a new leader with chairman John Whitbeck stepping down.
Mike Thomas, the state GOP’s first vice chairman, will step in on an interim basis — from Whitbeck’s July 21 departure until the State Central Committee picks a new chairman at its Sept. 8 meeting. That means the state GOP will have no permanent chairman until the height of the midterm elections as it tries to fend off Democratic challenges to Reps. Barbara Comstock, R-10th; Dave Brat, R-7th; and Scott Taylor, R-2nd.
Thomas said by email Monday that he will not be a candidate for the permanent chairmanship.
Cynthia Dunbar, Virginia’s Republican National Committeewoman, who lost nomination bids to run for the 5th and 6th District congressional seats, said by email that she has “no intention of running” for the chairmanship and that “any rumors being spread to the contrary are incorrect.”
Gilmore, governor from 1998 to 2002, said in an interview Monday with conservative radio host John Fredericks that he is not presently a candidate for the chairmanship. He said the party’s message is more important than the messenger and the state GOP must stress a commitment to policies that will help all Virginians have a better quality of life.
“I don’t think our party is racist. I don’t think our party is anti-woman, and I don’t think our party is in favor of being cruel to Hispanics, but that’s the way that the party is being characterized — and in a state like Virginia that’s just death,” Gilmore said.
Whitbeck could not immediately be reached for comment.
As governor, Gilmore helped Texas Gov. George Bush fend off Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in Virginia’s 2000 GOP presidential primary. Bush rewarded Gilmore by naming him chairman of the Republican National Committee, but Gilmore reportedly had a tense relationship with the White House political operation. He resigned about a year into the job, shortly after Democrats Mark Warner and Jim McGreevey won races for governor in Virginia and in New Jersey.
Gilmore lost Virginia’s 2008 U.S. Senate race to Warner by more than 30 percentage points. He now heads the American Opportunity Foundation — formerly the Free Congress Foundation — a nonprofit that advocates for conservative economic and national security policies.
Thomas, a lobbyist at McGuireWoods Consulting, was a longtime aide to GOP U.S. senators and governors. He was secretary of administration in Gov. George Allen’s Cabinet from 1994 to 1998 and was director of Virginia’s information technologies agency from 1998 to 2001 during Gilmore’s administration.
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