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Shenandoah GOP groups healing rift

By Alex Bridges

A rift between the Shenandoah County GOP and its women's group appears on the mend, according to the leader of the latter.

But the chairman of the GOP unit, Shenandoah County Supervisor David Ferguson, says a recent newspaper article in a local newspaper could send the wrong message to Republicans that ill will and mistrust remain between the groups.

"[We] collectively agreed that we would work toward a cohesiveness and healing between any fractions in either group so that we could come together and support the ideals of the Republican Party," Ferguson said by phone Friday.

Karen Kwiatkowski, president of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County, and Ferguson met recently to discuss how they can bring the groups together for the common goals of the party.

"It's not a local rift forming; it's a local rift healing and that rift formed last year, in 2012, when I ran against [U.S. Rep.] Bob Goodlatte," Kwiatkowski said by phone earlier this week. "This county unit has a lot of Goodlatte supporters in it."

Kwiatkowski did acknowledge a divide she likely created between the groups by challenging the establishment. She noted that many Republicans in the county viewed her candidacy as an unnecessary challenge that led to the rift.

"What you do is you get over it and you move forward, and that's what we're doing," Kwiatkowski said.

Kwiatkowski challenged U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte in the Republican Party primary in June seeking the candidacy to run for the Sixth Congressional District. Kwiatkowski lost to Goodlatte, a veteran congressman, but still received 34 percent of the vote, she said.

"That was not something that Bob Goodlatte supporters in the Republican unit of Shenandoah County appreciated," Kwiatkowski said.

Such challenges can lead to a divide among others in the party, Kwiatkowski acknowledged. But Ferguson and Kwiatowski recalled their meeting as one that focused on eliminating any divide between their groups. She described their meeting as "cordial."

"We're not unfriendly," Kwiatkowski said. "We're not hostile."

"During our meeting we talked about bringing the party together and it all hinges back on who I am and who he is," Kwiatkowski added.

Ferguson said he and Kwiatowski met to review what they should do "to continue to build good will between both groups, recognizing the fact that there was some mistrust and hurt feelings maybe on both sides and how we could move forward to bring unity to the group."

Kwiatkowski and Ferguson talked about the May 19 conventions held by GOP groups across the state to select candidates for the upcoming elections in May.

She also asked Ferguson for the date of the GOP's next meeting. Kwiatkowski explained that the usual procedure for the county GOP at its first regular meeting of the year calls for the leader of the women's group to give a report before the main unit.

However, as Kwiatkowski recalled, Ferguson indicated he would rather she submit her report in writing and "not speak unless I was spoken to, not speak unless I was called upon by him."

Kwiatkowski said she took Ferguson's recommendation as one that would help the groups heal. She noted that some members of the women's group took Ferguson's suggestion as an insult.

"We had a lot of things to talk about and that wasn't the biggest thing," Kwiatkowski said. "As I got to thinking about it afterwards it concerned me that at this point it was no longer about me - now he's talking about the way he intends to treat the women and it was a women's issue."

Ferguson said he suggested the alternate approach to help Kwiatowski and the GOP become more acclimated with each other.

Kwiatkowski did look into the change in procedure and said she contacted Sue Hughes, representative of the Sixth District for the Virginia Federation of Republican Women and former past president of the county group.

"She indicated to me this would be a change in a procedure and she brought it up the chain to the Republican federation," Kwiatkowski said.

Ferguson said he and Hughes "got along very well" and both tried to foster good will between the groups.

Kwiatkowski recalled that she had not planned to bring up the matter at the recent women's GOP meeting, but a participant asked about the change in procedure.

"It was kind of seen as a little bit of a diss to the women, a little bit of a possible insult," Kwiatkowski said. "My intent to bring it up is not that it's an insult."

Ferguson said he plans to contact Kwiatowski regarding the newspaper article and its representation of their meeting.

Kwiatkowski downplayed any perception of ill will seen with the procedural change. But the GOP women's group leader did see a broader issue facing Republicans in the area.

"What is there is residual impact of the two sides of the Republican Party - the establishment side and the more constitutional conservative side," Kwiatkowski said.

Kwiatkowski cited an event set for Saturday, sponsored by several constitutional conservatives, for the candidates seeking to run for lieutenant governor in November.

"What this is about is a shift on where activity and the energy levels lie in the Republican Party up here and not just in Shenandoah County but in Winchester, Frederick [County], all that," Kwiatkowski said.

The GOP plans to host a forum featuring candidates seeking the nomination to run for state lieutenant governor. Candidates confirmed for the forum are Jeannemarie Davis, E.W. Jackson, Scott Lingamfelter, Steve Martin, Pete Snyder, Corey Stewart and Susan Simpson.

The forum will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Carl and Emily Thompson Conference Room at Lord Fairfax Community College, Skirmisher Lane, Middletown. The event is free and open to the public. In the two-part forum, candidates will introduce themselves, share their platforms and then be asked pre-selected questions.

Organizers of the event include the Apple Valley Club, the Republican Women of Shenandoah County, the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives, Republican Party of Virginia Western Vice Chairwoman Suzanne Curran and VFRW 6th District Representative Sue Hughes.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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