Leesburg attorney and conservative activist John Whitbeck is seeking to become the next chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. Whitbeck announced his plans Sunday at JohnWhitbeck.com.
The local Republican's announcement comes on the heels of five-year Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins' decision to step down, a move some politicos viewed as "going out on a high note" following the party's historic congressional gains Tuesday.
The RPV's State Central Committee, made up of more than 50 Republicans from across the state, will elect the next party chairman around the end of January, according to a party spokesman. Whomever is elected will serve out the remainder of Mullins' term, which ends in 2016, and presumably run for a full term during the party's convention that year.
Currently the chief of Virginia's 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, which is centrally-focused in Loudoun County, Whitbeck has twice sought public office, including most recently in the 2013 special election to succeed Democrat Mark Herring in the Virginia Senate following Herring's election as attorney general. The Republican lost that election by 15 percentage points to Democrat Jennifer Wexton. Whitbeck also waged a statehouse bid in 2011 when he vied for the Republican nomination in Virginia's House of Delegates 10th District seat. He lost the GOP primary that year to current Del. Randy Minchew.
In his day job, Whitbeck is the majority shareholder and partner of the Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy law firm. He has served as a substitute judge for five years, an adjunct professor at George Mason Law School and the president of the Lansdowne Homeowner's Association.
Here is Whitbeck's full letter, titled "Why I'm Running for RPV Chairman":
Dear Virginia Republicans,
What a great time it is to be a Republican! After two years of tough losses, the Grand Old Party came roaring back with historic gains nationally in Congress. Our Party also almost shocked the world here in Virginia, and I extend my hearty congratulations and thanks to Ed Gillespie and his team for a job well done.
I also thank Chairman Pat Mullins for his many years of leadership. His professional and conservative leadership style has served the Party very well and he will be missed by all of us.
My friends, our work is by no means done. The results of this past Tuesday do not solve the many problems facing the Republican Party of Virginia. Our fundraising is not what it should be, we still have a significant technological gap to the progressives and we are plagued by infighting. It is time for our leaders in the Party to step forward and fix these problems, and the grassroots has to lead the way in this. That is why I am announcing today that I am running for Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
For the past few years as Chairman of the 10th District Committee, I have worked with my team to develop a strategic plan for our Committee to win elections without compromising our grassroots conservative values. The results in our District have been amazing.
We have created a Budget and Finance Committee that keeps our Committee fiscally sound and assists the Chairman in the critical task of fundraising. We have hired our own field staff to assist our campaigns in the ground game. We have a strong minority engagement plan that is critical to our future success as a Party. We have planned and executed complex nominating processes and built our own database of tens of thousands of Republican voters in our District. But most of all, we win elections in the critical area of Northern Virginia. We won our District for Romney, we won it for Cuccinelli and Tuesday we won it for Gillespie. Oh, and by the way, we beat the progressive Democrat (who out-spent our congressional nominee) by over 16 points!
As your Chairman I will take these successes to the state level. I will immediately create a new fundraising apparatus that will make us an independent force in Virginia politics, no longer dependent on elected officials for our functioning. I will finish the work of Chairman Mullins to solidify our database and finally bring us on par with our opponents once and for all. I will continue the work to bring new voters into the Party from communities that traditionally vote for Democrats. Most of all though, I will unite this Party toward one common goal - electing conservative Republicans to every level of government.
I am honored to have the support of so many State Central Committee members already and I will be reaching out to each and every member to lay out my vision for the Party in the next few weeks. I am very excited to hear from each of you on your ideas for change within our Party and I look forward to working with you.
Folks, there is a lot of work to do and we need a strong Chairman to lead our Party through this critical time. I am that leader, and with your help there is no limit on what we can do.
God bless you and our Party.
Whitbeck is expected to be challenged for the top GOP post by Eric Herr, chairman of the commonwealth's First Congressional District Republican Committee and a former colonel in the Air Force. Herr launched an unsuccessful bid for the Stafford County School Board in 2013, according to Ballotpedia.com.
For observers outside Loudoun, Whitbeck's name may sound familiar; he made headlines in the final month of the 2013 election season when, during an event for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, he told what many observers considered to be an "anti-Semitic joke." His comments were reported on by several national media outlets.
Said Whitbeck at the September 2013 rally for Cuccinelli, held in Sterling: " " when the pope is elected, the head of the Jewish faith goes to the Vatican and brings a ceremonial piece of paper. It's very old and it dates back hundreds of years, and he comes into the pope's office and he ceremonially hands the piece of paper to the pope, the new pope. And then the new pope ceremonially rejects it. And the head of the Jewish faith leaves . . . Well, this time around, the pope said: 'I gotta find out what's on this piece of paper.' So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it and he looks at it, and he closes it ... and his Jewish counterpart says 'what was it?' And he says, 'well, that was the bill for the Last Supper.'"
The next day, Whitbeck said he "did not tell an anti-Semitic joke." "I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service," he said.
Several days later, Whitbeck offered a quick apology on the 10th Congressional District website, stating: "Earlier this week, I made a lighthearted attempt at humor to which some have taken offense. It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone and I sincerely apologize to those who were."
This story has been updated from an earlier version.
Contact the writer at tbaratko@VirginiaNewsGroup.com.