The 24th District race has become contentious, led by comments coming from our sitting state senator who is in the race of his life. In an interview with the News Leader editorial board, he says if he wins he will "help the traditional base of the area's GOP regain control of local party leadership positions."
"Traditional base"? Who, Sen. Hanger, might that be? Those of us in leadership (and thanks, by the way, for the wonderful support by publicly airing your thoughts about us, especially after Kurt Michael has publicly said to the News Leader and others that no matter who wins this Primary we will all swing behind that candidate and unite) have worked hard the past eight years to build this party when there was barely anything in place. Where has your "traditional base" been during that time? And why are you threatening to remove us from our positions? Because we're not originally from this area?
Locally we have won for our candidates ... George Allen, Jerry Kilgore ... but they lost at the state level particularly Northern Virginia.
What do we "extremists" do as the Republican Party?
Support the Troops Rallies:
Since 2003 we have organized and led rallies to show support for our troops serving in Iraq, around the world, and on the home front. We have a small active local MoveOn.org-sponsored anti-war group that hit the streets in March 2003 so we have countered them on a consistent basis. I've never seen Sen. Hanger at a single rally but former Army Captain Scott Sayre spoke at the "Gathering of Eagles" support the troops rally in March 2007.
Weekday Religious Education (WRE):
Kurt Michael, Chairman of Augusta Republicans, worked with WRE President Jack Hinton to organize the local churches to save WRE when the Staunton School Board threatened to remove it from the schools in 2005. Due to his organizations skills over 500 people showed up at the school board's meeting, most in support of keeping WRE. With the help of attorney Gil Davis, WRE was saved.
"Win the War" signs and bumper stickers:
Those in our ranks designed them, ordered them, distributed them, and stand by them. They can be found throughout the SWAC area and Virginia. I haven't seen anyone from the Hanger camp involved in this endeavor.
Support for families of locally slain Marines:
We have lost three Marines in Augusta County during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As the coordinator of Support the Troops rallies, I felt our support included more than just standing on the street holding a sign. A number of SWAC-GOP volunteers, have paid respects to the families at the funeral home, sent flowers on behalf of the Republicans, and attended the funerals. This and other things we've done for the families have been our way of standing by them in gratitude for the sacrifice they've made for our country.
Support for local military leaving/returning from war:
Yellow ribbons, American flags, signs of thanks to our troops ... from the local volunteers.
Since 2000 the grassroots volunteers have represented the party in local Veterans Day, 4th of July, and Christmas parades. We have found float vehicles, arrived early to decorate, participated, then cleaned up afterward. Electeds arrive in time for the parade, smile and wave, and go home.
Started by this grassroots volunteer in 2000 as a mean of communicating with local Republicans to let them know when GOP candidates would be in the area, upcoming meetings, events, and activities.
Local Republicans worked with local delegates to pass this amendment to the state constitution. Again, Kurt Michael worked with pastors in over 40 local churches in a bipartisan effort that saw the Marriage Amendment pass at a time when George Allen lost.
We've helped with many of these events including last year's Staunton GOP fundraiser when Augusta County went to their rescue after their treasury dropped to $50. Augusta County Republicans made up 80% of the attendees which shows the cooperative spirit between the SWAC area committees.
Held on community issues such as real estate taxes and media.
Held monthly since 2000, these breakfasts which are led by Augusta County Chairman Kurt Michael have an average of 50 people attending to hear from local and statewide candidates about timely issues. The attendance has grown and, yet, Sen. Hanger claims we're out of step with the local grassroots. The breakfasts are a way for Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County Republicans to stay in touch with activities in all three areas which encourages a spirit of working together between the committees.
The local grassroots volunteers work GOP headquarters over and beyond the call of duty by keeping the doors open regular working hours (instead of an hour or two several days a week). When I became involved I was frustrated because there were no regular hours and it was always closed when I arrived with no way of contacting someone to find out the hours of operation. That was changed. Regular hours of operation were posted on the door with HQs' contact number for those who needed to get in touch with us. This has been an excellent way to meet folks in the community.
Candidate Yard and 4x8 Signs:
Every election brings signs. The grassroots have excellent sign guys who give their time and energy to help find locations and get those signs out there for the public to see. Twice during this campaign Sen. Hanger has been seen putting up his own signs ... because all the "sign guys" are the grassroots who did an excellent job of getting signs up early in the campaign season. They risk life and limb on the side of roads with vehicles whizzing past at 60 mph, four-wheeling into pastures and fields with their pickup trucks, burning blisters onto their hands pounding stakes and loading supplies, climbing extension ladders to secure signs to posts, wearing their vehicles down and burning their gasoline for a candidate they believe in.
Volunteers standing on the street at various locations around the area waving campaign signs of the candidate leading up to and on Election Day as a way to remind folks to go out and vote ... and vote for our guy!
TARs and CRs:
We've worked at building this group of young people, including them in our campaigns and social events at our homes. They are some of the hardest working folks around ... and they are a delight to be around! What enthusiasm from the young people of our country! I love to talk politics with such mature young people who have a strong grasp on politics. They are the future of the Republican Party.
Volunteer Appreciation Christmas Parties & More:
In most cases the volunteers take care of the volunteers. Every Christmas I have a dinner at my house to thank the grassroots for their help throughout the year. During the summer we have cookouts. I am appreciative that they came out to help our electeds and candidates, and we look out for one another.
Manning the Polls:
Every election brings the task of manning the polls for our candidates. In Augusta County we have 23 precincts; 5 in Staunton; 4 in Waynesboro. We also put out the candidate signs by 6 a.m. and take them up by 7 p.m. That calls for many volunteers.
Door-to-Door Neighborhood Walks:
Dozens of volunteers participate in "shoe-leather politics" by meeting their neighbors face-to-face on behalf of our Republican candidates.
Phone Calls to Neighbors:
We phone the community to remind them to vote, ask about candidates, discuss their concerns, and answer their questions.
County Fair Booth:
Every year we have a booth at the county fair that represents the local Republican Parties but also represents whichever candidate is running for election or reelection that particular year. We talk with folks, respond to their questions as well as their criticisms, hand out balloons and information, and much more.
Driving or walking the community to leave information to educate the voters is a big part of every campaign ... and we've all done it. Back roads and city streets ... we've tried to reach as many citizens as possible for President Bush, Senator Allen, Congressman Goodlatte, and even Sen. Hanger.
Regular Meetings and Mass Meetings:
The SWAC-GOP Chairmen spend hours planning and preparing for these, contacting members, inviting neighboring GOP Committee members, inviting Republicans from the community who may be interested in joining. Part of being involved in the Republican Party is to bring in new people (and we don't care if they aren't originally from this area, something that seems to bother Sen. Hanger since he mentioned we were from other areas of the state. Has he forgotten Sen. Allen is from California and Congressman Goodlatte is from Massachusetts?).
In my opinion, it is Senator Hanger who is out of touch with the grassroots ... by his own choice. He has been invited to participate over the years but for whatever reason he has chosen to stay away. Now he slams the very people who have been on the ground during that time ... and he insinuates there are two Republican Parties -- a "Mountain Valley Republican" and the rest of us. Interesting....