- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, in an abrupt move that surprised many colleagues, yesterday resigned as chairman of the Republican National Committee, a post he had held for a year.
The White House immediately began conducting a search for Mr. Gilmore's successor, asking for suggestions from party activists and interest groups.
A leading contender for the job is former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, a personal friend of President Bush's, several Republicans close to the search process said.
Although Mr. Gilmore has been criticized by some Republicans over last month's losses in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections, Mr. Gilmore and his advisers said he is stepping down for family reasons.
"He's just really feeling the need to spend more time with his family at home," said Dick Leggitt, Mr. Gilmore's political adviser. "When you have a bad day you can go home and be with your family. When he has a bad day he goes to sleep in a hotel in Des Moines. He just can't do that anymore."
Friends said the decision was made during a 10-minute telephone conversation between Mr. Gilmore and President Bush about 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
Mr. Gilmore, whose term as governor ends in January, recently decided to seek a job with a law firm after leaving office next year.
Mr. Gilmore asked White House political director Ken Mehlman to clear the job with White House chief political strategist Karl Rove, and Mr. Rove agreed, Republicans who were privy to the conversations told The Washington Times.
The governor has been busy since taking the RNC post along with being chairman of the congressional terrorism commission. With a wife, Roxane, two sons and his elderly father at home, Mr. Gilmore was often away, visiting 26 states this year.
"Since assuming chairmanship of the RNC last January while fulfilling those duties as well as my responsibilities as governor and as chairman of the terrorism commission I have spent 107 nights on the road away from Roxane and the boys," Mr. Gilmore said.
Mr. Leggitt said Mr. Gilmore perhaps realized that he wasn't able to fulfill his duties any longer one day last week when he had 22 appointments and later at night traveled to West Virginia to give a speech at a Republican conference.
"I respect and understand the decision Governor Gilmore has made," Mr. Bush said in a statement. "I wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors and will continue to seek his wise counsel as a friend and confidante."
Democrat National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe yesterday used his farewell to Mr. Gilmore to take a shot at Republicans.
"If I'm sitting in Jim Gilmore's chair and seeing what happened in the last election and wondering what's going on with the right-wing ideologues up on Capitol Hill, would I want to sit in that RNC chair?" Mr. McAuliffe said. "I wouldn't want to do it either."
Mr. Gilmore's resignation stunned some Virginia Republicans with whom he has worked closely since becoming governor in 1998.
"I know this must have been a very difficult decision for him to make," said Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. "But I'm certainly proud of the governor and the work he has done for our party."
RNC officials said an unusually large portion of the money the RNC has raised in the past year has come from telephone and direct-mail solicitations while money raised from major donors has fallen off.
Normally the president and his Cabinet officers help raise money from major donors. But September 11 and the war on terrorism have severely curtailed such activities.
As a result, the coming year would see Mr. Gilmore on the road almost daily in search of money for the party, leaving him no time for family or for earning extra money, friends said.
Friends said Mr. Gilmore's leaving the RNC in January makes it easier to prepare for a run for Virginia governor in 2005 if he decides to do so. The state constitution forbids consecutive terms.
Speculation among some RNC members was that Mr. Rove might want to head the national party now. "The members would feel flattered if Karl took the job," a longtime committee member confided.
When Mr. Bush won the presidency, Mr. Rove considered but turned down the RNC post in order to be personally closer to Mr. Bush in the White House.
Friends, however, say Mr. Rove is highly unlikely to leave the proximity of the Oval Office, especially now with the president waging war on terrorism.
Some RNC members privately expressed outrage at what they saw as the "dumping" of Mr. Gilmore, but many had long wanted to see him replaced by someone who had more time to spend on the job. Some members were in quiet revolt against Mr. Gilmore even before his choice for Virginia governor, Attorney General Mark Early, was soundly trounced by Democrat Mark Warner last month.
"Governor Gilmore tried the best he could under difficult circumstances," said Maine RNC member Sarah Boyd Gear. "Wearing two or three hats is difficult for the best of persons."
"They should consider a woman or someone who has some national exposure to fill Jim's shoes," Mrs. Boyd Gear said.
Joseph Curl contributed to this article.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide