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April 11, 2018 · OPINION

Time to make county GOP more inclusive

By Aaron J. Winters

Ah yes, the same old song and dance: “Vote for the Chairman of the Fauquier County Republican Committee this April 14 at Fauquier High School… The very survival of the county depends on it!”

While I definitely encourage every Fauquier Republican to come out and cast his or her vote Saturday, my reasons are quite different from those who will preach of eminent doom and that Fauquier is threatened by a scary band of radical Tea Party developers who will take your land and pave over it. My reasons are based on observations I have made over the past couple years in the Fauquier County Republican Committee.

Observation 1: There has never been a conversation within the committee meetings regarding land use, easements or development.

I’m not kidding. The very fear tactics some use to try to get Republican voters to punch the ballot their way is simply irrelevant to the scope of responsibility or authority the FCRC has. It is nothing more than a means to scare you, the voter, with an expectation that you’ll never look into it yourself.

The FCRC has one exclusive responsibility: to be the rallying force to get Republicans elected at the county, state and federal levels. The committee can’t even endorse a candidate until a convention, primary or other public means determines a sole Republican candidate.

Observation 2: Disagreement bears the expectation of punishment.

I have firsthand experience with this. In my attempts to understand the rules of this committee, I have several times reached out to leadership to urge them to follow procedures when I observed a violation, encouraging those in authority to do right by the membership and take corrective action prior to it becoming a big deal. Some of these violations have been ultimately appealed to higher committees, in which the current leadership then sought to have those who disagree, myself included, be punished for their dissidence.

In addition, those who appealed are then further categorized as a single group of radicals, regardless of their individual reasons for disagreement. This is a dangerous stance for any leadership of any organization to have, resembling more of a dictatorial authority than the facilitation of open discussion of diverse ideas.

Observation 3: Improper use of parliamentary procedure is cause of much discord.

It wasn’t until I acquainted myself with the rules that the improper conduct of these meetings became noticeable. The meetings are meant to facilitate civil debate, yet so many were silenced and labeled evil for having dissenting opinions. And when challenged as to the proper rules of order, often the presiding parliamentarian was either unknowing of proper procedure or couldn’t be troubled with opening the rule book to check.

The only meetings in the past two years that have gone well are ones that either had no real business to discuss (and thus no disagreements) or one that a higher order committee had to send observers to oversee.

Observation 4: Lack of transparency appears to be used as a tactic to ensure uninformed members vote a desired outcome.

Many of the more controversial topics of business are not given to the membership with adequate time for review or reasonable time for discussion to hear individuals’ views. It seems that even debate can’t happen without opposing sides crying bloody murder to silence dissenting debate.

In one meeting, an entire revision to the rules was sent out with the expectation of an all-or-nothing vote with little to no civil discussion. In another meeting, an internal “election” of new members was held, with no one except the leadership knowing who was to be voted in until minutes before the vote. Members have on multiple occasions asked for a list of the current membership with no resolution, while on multiple occasions members were claiming they had been wrongfully kicked off the committee with a he-said-she-said as to why and no corroborating evidence.

Operations appear to be conducted within a black box that only those privileged few are allowed to see what is behind the curtain. All others are expected to just accept the predetermined decisions that are made, no questions asked.

Observation 5: Without objective evidence, transparency and accountability are left unchecked.

With all the above observations, I began video recording the meetings. And most of the points made above are evident in what I filmed. I guess that’s why it was found necessary to publicly condemn me as someone trying to stifle free speech by filming these publicly open meetings.

I was made to stand and explain myself. I simply stated that due to the chaos of several previous meetings, I felt it necessary for transparency, encouragement of proper conduct as well as ensuring the rights of the membership are preserved. I was then accused of trying to film a “gotcha” moment (of which there would be no gotchas if proper procedures and decorum are maintained). No further discussion was allowed as they immediately proceeded to hold a vote to ban filming and have me removed by an armed sheriff’s deputy for refusing to stop transparently filming.

This, by the way, was right before the “election” of new members that was found in violation of our bylaws in a unanimous decision by a higher order committee. There is now no means of objective transparency or accountability in the FCRC as it is now simply a he-said-she-said when it comes to evidence of one’s actions. I have not used these recordings to benefit either candidate in this campaign and I hope both candidates can now see that my motives are for transparency and accountability within the committee, not for political gain.

For all these reasons, there is a need to separate from the existing paradigm of top-down leadership and begin to focus on facilitating civil discussion where all voices are heard and respected equally. We need to try something new. Let’s throw out all of the chalked up lies about a Tea Party radical insurgency or that one candidate loves this county while another will pave over it.

I encourage both candidates for FCRC chairman to take these observations to heart and that all Fauquier Republicans should hold this committee to a higher standard. We should not only expect better, but should be respected for it. And I welcome discussing solutions to all of the above observations with either candidate.

Label me what you want, but I did not join the FCRC for this petty squabbling over ideals that don’t have anything to do with the operations or scope of this committee. I joined to advance the Republican cause, to grow the tent and to advocate for the rights of the people. Not to be blindly led by a few, but to be informed by all viewpoints and to be respected for mine, even if it’s not always the popular one.

Greg Schumacher’s campaign promises transparency and unity, and based on my observations of his actions within the committee meetings I believe him. Harry Burroughs has been on the leadership committee during my tenure, so I surely hope his ambitions to be chairman come with a completely different demeanor than what has been exhibited during his current reign.
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martinkus · April 14, 2018 at 3:25 pm
Rover 530:

Agree with you! The canvass had a "toxic kind of feeling." One group of "Republicans" wore bright red T-shirts with the words "Real Republican" on it! Wow! My wife and I had to "run the gauntlet," being blitzed with sample ballots, before we were able to reach "the no campaign zone". Sad day fro Republicans here in Fauquier! The Republican party continues to splinter and it will show at the mid-term elections, here in Virginia, and also country-wide. Thank you Trump!
Jim Griffin · April 14, 2018 at 10:45 am
Extraordinarily well-reasoned commentary from Rover530. Thank you.

Fauquier Fan · April 12, 2018 at 8:17 pm
Sorry, I meant Aaron...
Fauquier Fan · April 12, 2018 at 7:53 pm
Adam - Why did you refuse to stop recording when the membership of the FCRC voted to not have recording? Do you not respect the results of a legal vote? If not, why?
Rover 530 · April 12, 2018 at 6:57 pm
I can't believe the Republicans in this county hire armed police to monitor their meetings. Ouch! What does that say to the voters of Fauquier? Unfortunately, the deputies wear Brown Shirts; not their fault - they protect and serve despite politics. This fight for leadership of the local Republican political committee has become a laughing stock in the county. The chairpersons of our county political committees have no real power. They can't legislate anything. They and their committees oversee processes that recruit, nominate and support candidates for public office. Nothing else.

Yes, the Democrats are making progress in achieving a majority they possessed 30 years ago. The local committee reorganized months ago and is in the process of sending delegates to nominating conventions for U.S. Congress; not fighting internally. As of now Republicans make up about 35 to 40 per cent of the voters in the county. Democrats make up about 30 per cent. The rest are independent voters who go with their conscience each election. This is the middle ground contested by the organized political parties.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter who is selected by local Republicans to be their chairman for the next 2 years, the person will be a Trumpster; pledged to support the chaos killing our national economy and international reputation and placing our country in peril of war. SAD! Schumacher will be another general in Trump's Army. I have nothing to say about Burroughs; don't know him.

Local voters who identify themselves as Republicans should organize to help counter the disaster in Richmond and Washington while still championing their ideals. I will not participate in the Republican caucus this Saturday. Too toxic.
Vickie · April 12, 2018 at 6:35 pm
I am so glad to read this. Someone else sees the truth and speaks the truth! I read this whole post, saying, "Me too". "I had that happen, to." All through the points, I saw truth and reasonable conjecture. I have the same sentiments. I had hoped I could be done with commenting, because no one likes being attacked for speaking the truth. But, here again, I see a reason to speak up. Thanks, Mr. Winters for taking a stand, and just speaking about how "IT IS," not how it is perceived (or portrayed as). I join him and Fauquier Republican in urging people to vote for a new opportunity to be inclusive, and open to new ideas. Old ideas are tired and not helping us at all. We need more going forward than the same old same old. Today I received the 5th and 6th mailing from Burroughs, who has created a pile of junk mail in my trash, especially when he bad mouths his competitor. He wants us to think he is the best choice. He's not. We don't need the extra taxes just assessed and Burroughs hasn't helped that situation one bit. Apparently the FTA hasn't done much to help us there, either. I never heard of the FTA until just recently, when Burroughs says they have endorsed him. Have they endorsed our increased taxes? They must have, and I say no to that. We need a change. We need a welcoming group. including people who will listen to more than a handful of deeply entrenched established members, who refuse to add anyone who has the least idea of open minds and hearts to other viewpoints. Take a chance on inclusion rather than exclusion. Either video a meeting to document the truth, or have no reason to protect the truth, but video to expand the horizons of the Republican membership. That doesn't have to be resolved right now, but opening up membership to new ideas is mandatory and needs to be fixed April 14. I will vote for Greg Schumacher, and urge Republican voters to come flowing out of their residences and fight for this needed change.
Fauquier Republican · April 11, 2018 at 8:19 pm
Mr. Winters is exactly correct in his observations. I was at the meeting where a Deputy removed him because he wanted to record the proceedings, which I thought was very, very wrong. If they have nothing to hide, why did they bring the police to take people out for recording the meeting? Aren't all public meeting supposed to be open to all?

The leaders of this Fauquier committee act like dictators or something. All I want to do is gather with Republicans to support Republican candidates, but they never seem to do that. Instead they just try to stop people from making things better.

Our county is becoming more Democrat by the day, and we have to have more effective leaders to do something to make sure we don't end up like Prince William, or Loudon, or Fairfax or something.

Mr. Burroughs might be a nice guy, although I have seen the ugly side of him, but my problem with him is that he hasn't done anything to get more members or to get voters out to the polls, even though I understand that is supposed to be his job as a committee leader.

According to his flyers he mailed out, he also supports the current status in the county which got me and my family another 14% tax increase this year alone!

I don't know how much more of this we can take, and Mr. Burroughs is saying he will keep giving us more of it!

I've seen what Mr. Burroughs represents, and I am going to vote for Mr. Schumacher.

He is a very nice man who loves our county, and I think he will do what is right on our committee.
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