Shenandoah County GOP picks leader

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County Republican Committee picked a new leader Friday.

Participants in the committee’s convention voted for Vito Gentile over S. John Massoud as chairman. Gentile served as the committee’s chairman for District 1. Massoud campaigned unsuccessfully as the party’s candidate to unseat District 6 Supervisor and former Republican Conrad Helsley, who ran as an independent.

Gentile received 136.68 weighted votes to Massoud’s 126.32 votes, results showed. Gentile received 106 raw votes cast compared to Massoud’s 73 votes. Massoud handily won his precinct of Strasburg. Massoud also won Toms Brook and New Market. The candidates tied in Fort Valley and Lebanon Church precincts. Gentile won the other six precincts.

Even though 263 votes were cast, only 179 were considered legal.

Previous acting chairman of the committee Craig Orndorff served as chairman for the convention. Each candidate gave a speech asking the audience to pick him for the job to lead the committee for the next two years.

Massoud tossed aside a prepared speech and instead pointed out that the party had failed to sweep the county elections in November. Longtime District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson lost his bid for another term to independent Richard Walker. Chad Logan tried unsuccessfully to unseat Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley. District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker, a Republican, did fend off independent challenger Mike Wakeman.

“This headline should be an embarrassment and a humiliation for every person in this room,” Massoud said, citing a recap of the contest in a local newspaper.

The party ran a slate of strong candidates, Massoud said. He noted that he has worked on successful campaigns in other parts of the state.

“It is beyond mind-boggling to me how in the most conservative, Republican area – not only in the Sixth Congressional District but in all of Virginia – the Republican slate was basically defeated,” Massoud said. “We can do better than this, guys. We should be doing better than this. We are the party of ideas. We are the party of the common man and woman. We are the party that understands that all people are created equal under the eyes of God and we lose and we’re OK with that. We should not be OK with that. I’m not OK and I know that most of you are not OK and that’s why I’m glad to see you here.”

“We need to get engaged,” Massoud said. “Each and everyone of us individually needs to do this. We can do this and we will do this, ’cause if we do not, the alternative is unthinkable and that alternative is these three words: President Hillary Clinton.”

Gentile read from a speech and took a different approach.

“We are all proud to be Republicans,” Gentile said. “We are all proud to be Republicans when we elect Republicans in Shenandoah County.”

Gentile went on to say that, in conducting the convention, members had to declare to each other that they are Republicans.

“You are all in accord with the principals of the Republican Party and you intend to support its nominees,” Gentile said. “You are all in a very real sense the activists that make the business of this party happen, in our local community, into our precincts and through our individual committee members, providing the political activities of our party so that the goals of our party are achieved.”

Gentile noted that this year features a presidential election, the next a gubernatorial contest.

“Increasing the number of Republican votes cast in the election of our Republican candidates is the name of the game, ladies and gentleman,” Gentile said. “It is the reason we exist.”

Gentile went on to talk to the audience about the election of precinct leaders for the party committee and noted their importance at the local level and the bigger picture. Gentile also pointed out that in previous presidential elections many registered voters did not go to the polls. Many other people who might have been eligible to vote in those elections did not register, Gentile added.

“It is the job of the county chairman to lead by example and to inspire; to organize and direct the activities of our committee members and other activists; to represent our community, our county and our local party; to see opportunity and interpret how opportunity may be turned to our advantage,” Gentile said.

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