Fifth District group dissolves Republican Committee

As of this past weekend, the Buckingham County Republican Committee doesn’t exist. By a majority vote of 22 to 6, with three abstaining, the group was dissolved on Saturday, March 23 during a meeting of Republicans from around the Fifth Congressional District. 

The Buckingham committee’s status was the focus of the emergency meeting, which was called by Rick Buchanan. He serves as chairman of the Fifth Congressional District of Virginia Republican Committee. The way it works is that each county or city has a “unit” committee, their own group of Republicans, with an elected chair and vice chair. Then each county chairperson is a part of the larger Fifth District Republican Committee, which can weigh in on issues involving the individual county groups. 

That’s what brought the Fifth District group together Saturday, an issue Buchanan brought up involving Buckingham’s Republicans. He argued that the group should decide if “the Buckingham County Republican Committee failed to function properly as a unit of the Republican Party of Virginia.” And if a majority of the Fifth District chairs agreed, then the Buckingham committee would be dissolved. 

SO WHAT’S THE COMPLAINT? 

Each Republican unit group has to hold a mass meeting when it’s time to elect a chairperson, recruit new members and choose delegates. Part of the rule is that you have to post the meeting on the Republican Party of Virginia’s (RPV) website and advertise it. 

Here’s where the complaint comes in. Everyone acknowledges Ramona Christian, Buckingham’s Republican Committee Chair, sent the information about the mass meeting to the state party’s staff. Those emails were displayed during Saturday’s meeting and The Gazette has seen them as well. But the call to mass meeting didn’t get posted on the website. The issue, Buchanan said, is that the problem was never fixed. 

“(The) Buckingham chair turned in her call to be posted on the RPV calendar, but no posting was ever made,” Buchanan said during Saturday’s meeting. “This is on the RPV. However, no effort to follow up with RPV was made until the deadline had passed.” 

He pointed out the call for mass meeting never got published, which Buchanan felt reduced the number of people interested in being delegates or joining the Buckingham committee overall. There was also a feeling some Republicans in Buckingham County had been disenfranchised as a result. Buchanan added there were eight other mistakes made when it comes to the call to mass meeting, so that even if the announcement had been published, it wouldn’t have followed Party procedure. 

But all of that would have been fine, Buchanan said, if the Buckingham committee had just agreed to make the corrections and then hold another mass meeting, this time making sure it got advertised. Buchanan said he told Christian the call to mass meeting would have to be fixed and sent out by March 20, offering help, as several members of the Fifth District committee had volunteered to work with Buckingham. But the Buckingham group refused. By a unanimous vote at their March 8 meeting, they declined to make any changes. The reason, Christian said, is she was following advice from the Republican Party of Virginia’s attorney. 

BUCKINGHAM’S EXPLANATION 

Christian said when she found out the call to mass meeting hadn’t been published, she reached out to the Republican Party of Virginia. Specifically, she got in touch with Chris Marston, the Party’s general counsel. 

“I emailed Chris Marston, I said I found out the call was not published, what do I do?” Christian said. In those emails, Marston said that the situation has happened to other groups. He advised Christian that unless somebody appeals the lack of an advertised call to mass meeting, there’s nothing to do. 

And how do you appeal? There are several rules involved. Attorney Kate Maxwell, who represented the Buckingham Republican Committee at Saturday’s meeting, spelled them out.

It has to be done within 30 days by a member of the local committee, in this case Buckingham. It also has to be a written appeal, not just a statement, with 25 signatures in support. 

“You bring it in writing and the committee has to take it up,” Maxwell said. 

And that didn’t happen, Maxwell pointed out. 

“Nobody did that,” Maxwell said. “For all of the folks who were aggrieved by this mass meeting, not one of them raised the issue within the 30 days. The rules give a remedy and it was not complied with.” 

And since Buckingham Republicans had been told it was ok by the Virginia Party’s general counsel, that’s why they didn’t try to correct anything, Christian said. 

“This is what the counsel for the Republican Party of Virginia told me,” Christian told the assembled members Saturday. “If we cannot rely on advice from counsel, there’s no hope for us.” 

TAKING A VOTE 

Buchanan argued that not correcting and advertising the meeting, regardless who gave advice, had reduced the number of people willing to be delegates for district or state Republican conventions in Buckingham. Currently there are only four delegates from the Buckingham committee for the upcoming fifth district convention. 

“The history of Buckingham, they have really been active in going to conventions,” Buchanan said. “In 2022, there were 52 people at the Fifth District convention (from Buckingham). (At the) Tenth (district convention in 2023), there were 140 (from Buckingham). I think that tells you something about the way the call was made and there was no advertisement, at all.”

Another member of the Fifth District committee, Susan Lascolette, said she didn’t want to dissolve the Buckingham group, but didn’t see many options. 

“I have no desire to disband this unit,” Lascolette said in Saturday’s meeting. “I have no desire to hurt the people in Buckingham County (but the lack of publishing) disenfranchises voters.” 

Lascolette said she wished Buckingham committee members would have just agreed to make the corrections, but they didn’t. 

The other members of the group were divided, with some abstaining from a vote because they didn’t like their options. Some came out in support of the Buckingham group, since they were following legal advice. 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW? 

So now the Buckingham Republican Committee has been dissolved. What’s next? Well, the Fifth District Committee will take over and create a new one. 

“The (Fifth) District Committee is in the process of reconstituting the commitee with a new call,” Buchanan told The Gazette. “That will allow the Republicans in Buckingham to choose their committee members, a Chairman and allow Delegates to sign up for the Fifth District and State Convention.” 

But the clock is ticking on this. The Fifth District Convention is scheduled for April 27. Meanwhile, the state Republican convention will take place on May 31 and June 1.