- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

Virginia Republicans say the winners and losers from last weekend’s nominating convention must quickly unite and move ahead together to reach new voters for the party to succeed in the November elections.

“We’re not a state anymore where we can just simply depend on Republican votes to win,” said Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican, who was named chairman of the state party Saturday. “We need every vote we can get.”

Mr. Frederick, 32, a social conservative, won his post after incumbent party Chairman John H. Hager conceded the chairman’s race at the 2008 Virginia Republican Convention held Friday and Saturday in Richmond. Mr. Frederick must now lead a party that in Virginia has lost two consecutive gubernatorial races, a U.S. Senate seat and control of the Virginia state Senate.

A Republican resurgence in the state largely depends on former Gov. James S. Gilmore III upsetting former Gov. Mark Warner in the U.S. Senate race.

The election will coincide with a presidential race in which Virginia looks to be a battleground state for presumptive presidential nominees Sen. John McCain, Republican, and Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat.

Mr. Gilmore defeated state Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a conservative from Prince William, to win the nomination by roughly 65 votes.

Mr. Marshall attacked Mr. Gilmore’s stances on such issues as abortion and illegal immigration, and Mr. Gilmore’s chances against Mr. Warner could depend in part on winning over Marshall supporters.

Gilmore campaign spokeswoman Ana Gamonal said Sunday her candidate is a social conservative who hopes to attract Mr. Marshall’s voting bloc and “harness their activism.”

She stressed Mr. Gilmore’s support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman and his pledge if elected to the Senate to back only the selection of strict-constructionist federal judges.

“Ultimately, when it comes down to a choice between a mostly conservative Republican and Mark Warner, the Bob Marshall supporters are not going to sit on their hands on Election Day,” said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. “They might think Jim Gilmore is only 80 percent right, but that’s a lot better than 20 percent right.”

In his acceptance speech at the convention, Mr. Gilmore also emphasized the party’s need to reach out to independents, Democrats and minorities to defeat Mr. Warner - a 53-year-old multimillionaire who ended his gubernatorial term with a roughly 70 percent job-approval rating.

Mr. Rozell said that may prove a larger challenge to Republicans than unifying their own party, given Mr. Warner’s “stratospheric approval ratings” and the Republicans’ reputation among immigrant communities.

Mr. Frederick backed a crackdown on illegal immigrants recently approved by Prince William legislators that is considered one of the most stringent efforts in the country.

“The GOP has played a lot of issues just terribly wrong when it comes to minority voters, especially immigrant populations in Northern Virginia,” Mr. Rozell said. “These are voters who perceive the GOP as outright hostile to their interests.”

Still, Mr. Frederick said the party can re-establish itself in Virginia by recommitting to firm positions on issues such as low taxes, excellent education and “doing what we can to address the illegal-immigration problem.”

The result may determine if the state votes Republican - as it has in every presidential election after 1964 - or continues its gradual turn toward electing Democrats.

“It comes back to some very standard principles,” Mr. Frederick said. “You have to stand for something, and we have to be consistent in that stance.”

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