Gilbert appeals for unity among local Republicans at Ronald Reagan Dinner
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MT. JACKSON -- Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, exhorted a divided Shenandoah County Republican Committee during its Ronald Reagan Dinner on Saturday to unite in their common goal of putting a Republican president in the White House.
Also at the Yellow Barn at Shenandoah Caverns was former Gov. George Allen, who is running for the U.S. Senate; state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg; and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, all of whom gave speeches.
Two of Allen's challengers -- Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, and Jamie Radtke were also in attendance and spoke, as did Conicville resident Karen Kwiatkowski, who is opposing Goodlatte.
Gilbert, the lead-off speaker, told county GOPers he was "distressed" by the state of the local party.
Controversy surrounding the plans of the Board of Supervisors -- all of whom are Republicans -- to go forward with the RSW Regional Jail against the wishes of Republican Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and some others in the local Republican Party has led to a divide.
District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson and Craig Orndorff, who is a director on the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, are both vying to be the Shenandoah County Republican Committee chairman. The current chairman, Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary, isn't seeking re-election.
McCleary unsuccessfully campaigned last fall for Shenandoah County Commonwealth's attorney against Amanda McDonald Wiseley, who ran as an independent. She decided against seeking the party nomination after what she said was a "whispering campaign" and dirty politics. A third initial candidate, Ken Alger -- now the Page County
Commonwealth's attorney -- also dropped out of the nomination race.
"It's gotten to the point where it's tearing us apart," Gilbert said Saturday. "People look around this room, and for whatever reason, see their enemies in this room."
The real foe, according to Gilbert, is President Obama.
"That's the real enemy that we need to stare down this November," he said. "Folks, you've got to put your mind to the common goal this year of defeating Barack Obama."
Former Gov. Tim Kaine -- running against likely Republican nominee Allen -- shares Obama's mindset, according to Gilbert, and needs to be targeted for defeat.
Whether Ferguson or Orndorff wins, the rest of the party needs to back the new chairman, he said.
"I mean no hyperbole at all, our freedom is in jeopardy," Gilbert said.
And, while that's at stake, he said, party members are allowing "petty differences" to interfere. They need to put those differences aside and direct a "laser focus on beating Barack Obama and Tim Kaine this year," Gilbert said.
"I challenge each and every one of you, let's pull this together, let's lead this party to victory," he said.
Obenshain also stressed it was important to put Republicans in office.
"Ronald Reagan's vision stands in stark contrast to the vision of Barack Obama, and the vision of Tim Kaine and the vision of Mark Warner," he said from the stage, near which was a portrait of the former president. "It makes it all the more important for us to get our job done this year. They're consistently looking for excuses to explain the failings of our economy. They believe that what we can't do for ourselves, the government ought to be doing.
"Restoring Ronald Reagan's vision is fundamental."
Allen reminisced about moving to California when his father became the head coach of the L.A. Rams. There, he met Reagan, who soon became governor. The former actor attended the team's football practices, Allen said.
And, when the Allens moved to Virginia when the senior Allen took over the Redskins, Reagan asked the younger Allen -- then a University of Virginia student -- to head up the Young Virginians for Ronald Reagan.
Allen said the American dream could be restored if the founding principles of freedom and equal opportunity are followed.
"We've got to change Washington," Allen said. "There's too much at stake not to
try. I know from experience that people from both parties can work together.
"We're blessed to live in the best land in the history of mankind. We have a responsibility. Representative government doesn't run on automatic pilot. This election in 2012 is truly an historic election...[a] rendezvous with destiny."