County GOP chair weighs in on election

The Shenandoah County Republican Committee remains unified after Tuesday’s election, its chairman said Thursday.

Voters elected the Republican Party pick over the independent candidate in the District 5 race for the Board of Supervisors. Longtime supervisor and Republican Dennis Morris defeated Marsha Shruntz, an independent who unseated him four years earlier. However, the opposite occurred in District 1 on Tuesday, where voters picked Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese, a longtime Republican, who ran as an independent rather than seek the party’s nomination, over the GOP candidate Karen Kwiatkowski.

Just two years before, District 6 Supervisor Conrad Helsley dropped out of the local GOP and ran as an independent against S. John Massoud, the party’s candidate for the seat. Helsley fended off Massoud and two other independent challengers.

Kwiatkowski claimed after this year’s election that the party appeared fractured in light of the local and statewide results as well as the political climate nationwide. Kwiatkowski commented that the District 1 results show that some Republican voters supported Neese and not the party’s candidate.

But Vito Gentile, chairman of the Shenandoah County Republican Committee, said Thursday that his group helped the statewide GOP candidates.

“If I were to say anything I’d say well I guess we did our part out here, here in Shenandoah County,” Gentile said. “We knew we had to deliver a sizable Republican vote knowing that … we deal in thousands of votes but we, in fact, contribute to the whole.”

Big majorities of Shenandoah County voters threw their support to the GOP candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Overall statewide results showed the opposite, with voters picking candidates on the Democratic Party ticket.

“What we observed, of course, is that even though the votes cast for the Republican statewide ticket at least equaled what occurred in … 2009 – the last time we had a Republican governor elected and an entire statewide ticket elected – in fact, that in the Commonwealth of Virginia perhaps that is not enough any longer and we’ve always understood and known that there are sizable Democratic vote majorities in Northern Virginia and Richmond city and Hampton Roads,” Gentile said.

The local GOP committee worked to drum up support for the Republican candidates and to push voters to go to the polls, Gentile said. The fact that the county had three district seats on the Board of Supervisors up for election this time helped generate more activity that brings voters to the polls, Gentile said.

“When you bring out a lot of voters in Shenandoah County they tend to vote Republican,” Gentile said. “We thought this was somewhat certainly to our advantage. I think it probably was because we were able to capitalize on the interest that was generated in District 1, 4 and 5 where there was local races as well.”

Kwiatkowski narrowly lost the District 1 election, Gentile noted.

Asked about the state of the local Republican Party, Gentile commented on the range of viewpoints within it.

“We clearly have a spectrum of positions from the most conservative and in fact we see in the national level, the Freedom Caucus, etc., we see from the most conservative to whatever we describe the folks that might be moderate or establishment or whatever description one wants to give them,” Gentile said. “The Republican Party, in my experience and I think in most others, is that it’s always been a fairly big tent party.”

Republicans share similar ideas, Gentile said. Then begin the discussions about those ideas, he added.

“In other words, how much government is enough government?” Gentile said. “If we all agree on limited government, and I know Karen’s slogan I think was less government, more prosperity, and we can all agree that we don’t want to see excessive regulation and we don’t want to see the type of things that might prohibit initiative or even the opportunities that exist, whether it be opportunity for investment or opportunities for establishing new businesses – that’s where the point of discussion begins.

“Karen and I don’t have to agree on everything, nor do Dennis Morris and I have to agree on everything,” Gentile added. “But we come together on basic tenets or basic principles that underlie the Republican Party traditionally and as it has evolved.”

Gentile, who lives and votes in District 1, said he supported Kwiatkowski in her election bid.

“The Republican candidate still lost the election but then it appears that there may still be a conservative on the board,” Gentile said. “I hate to put it quite that way but looking at it in a very practical sense I think that the people are going to be served reasonably well.”

If 70 percent of the county voters support Republican candidates, then discussions remain among that party, Gentile said.