By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Tensions ran deep as members of the Warren County Republican Committee elected new officers two days after another group of Republicans in a separate meeting elected a rival group of officers.
Dominic Repici was elected chairman, Steve Kurtz was chosen as vice chairman and Mary Kay Clark retained her post as secretary. All were elected with no formal opposition, but many of the 150 or so in attendance were ineligible to vote because they were not members of the committee. Many belonged to the faction that elected Mike McHugh as chairman and Nick Bukowski as vice chairman Tuesday.
The question of who will be recognized as the official leaders of the committee appears likely to be determined by party officials at the congressional district and possibly state levels.
One of those officials, Wendell Walker of Lynchburg, sat in the back of the room watching and listening. Walker, who is party chairman of the 6th congressional district, said he was at the meeting purely as an observer and was taking no sides -- for now.
Waker has been working with party members trying to solve their differences.
"I'm now a peacemaker," he said in a brief interview. "I like a happy family."
But the conflict between the two sides was apparent as different members of the audience challenged Repici on procedural issues and the overall direction of the meeting. Others defended the party's traditional leadership and rules.
Tony Elar, of the Harmony Hollow subdivision, blasted McHugh's faction seated on the opposite side of the room as people more interested in grabbing power than doing the slow, plodding work of electing fellow Republicans and building the party.
"When the work starts, they disappear," said Elar, who described himself as a party member for 20 years.
Mickey Krebs, a member of the McHugh faction, said she moved to Front Royal from Missouri. She said many long time members of the party have tried to exclude newcomers with hairsplitting arguments over rules and processes.
"The best thing you could do is give them an example, welcome them in and help them understand the process," Krebs said in remarks delivered to the rival faction.