- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

RICHMOND | The Virginia Republican State Central Committee on Saturday elected Louisa County Republican Pat Mullins to serve as party chairman until Republicans statewide vote on a new leader later in May. Mr. Mullins is a former Fairfax County party chairman.

In April, the party’s ruling committee voted 57-18 to oust embattled state Delegate Jeff Frederick from the post he had held for just 10 months.

Mr. Frederick had angered party leaders by his handling of party finances and embarrassed Republicans last fall with his widely publicized comparison of then-Democrat candidate Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden. His position was further weakened when Virginia Republicans lost three U.S. House seats, the state’s second Senate seat, and saw Mr. Obama become the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race in 44 years.

By voice vote Saturday, the committee chose Mr. Mullins to fill the spot until the May 29-30 convention, where delegates will select a new full-time chairman to complete the three years remaining on Mr. Frederick’s term.

“We have very important elections that are coming up this fall,” said Richard Neel, committee treasurer. “The longer we wait to have a chairman in place, the more time we lose in terms of organizing and raising money to prepare for this fall’s elections.”

“The ultimate decision still will be in the hands of grass-roots Republicans on who the chairman will be,” he said.

Mr. Mullins is a longtime Republican activist with his base of support in the party’s conservative wing, but has established alliances with some of the party’s moderates. In Fairfax, he helped one of the GOP’s best-known moderates, former Rep. Thomas M. Davis, with his races for Congress and for the Fairfax Board of Supervisors before that.

Mr. Mullins moved to rural Louisa County in central Virginia and sells insurance policies on horses. He said his experience as Republican chairman in both large and rural communities puts him in a unique position to understand the needs of Republicans across the state.

In addition to raising money, Mr. Mullins said he would focus on reaching out to minorities and unifying the party, among other things.

“We’ve got some divisions that have to be healed,” he said. “One way to do that in my mind is to get down to the grass-roots Republicans and let them know we’re there for them.”

Republicans are hoping to recapture the governor’s mansion in November and hold on to their six-seat majority in the House of Delegates, where all 100 seats are on the ballot.

While Mr. Mullins is raising money, unifying the party and reaching out to the counties, he must also campaign to hold onto his new position. He and Mr. Neel said it was likely that one or more candidates would run against him at the convention.

Mr. Mullins said he would reach out to each of the more than 10,400 delegates who have signed up for the convention.

“If I get opposition, we’ll just do what we need to do to win the convention. If I don’t get opposition, we’ll go into fundraising mode for the party,” Mr. Mullins said.

Candidates must send a letter of intent to the nominating committee by May 12 and meet with the committee by May 18 to be verified and get their name on the ballot.

Alexandra Liddy Bourne of Fairfax County had expressed interest in challenging Mr. Mullins, but Mr. Neel said she decided to join with Mr. Mullins in anticipation of a leadership role in the party if he is elected chairman at the convention.

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