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Shouting Down Opponent Adds to Convention Reunion

Reunited Ollie North field staff Roger Jarrell, Diane Cullo, Kathy Hayden (not pictured) and John Pudner, who once turned out 14,500 paid delegates for the largest political convention in history, found themselves at another memorable political gathering. Roger & Diane served in the Trump Administration.

Political conventions never fail to produce unforgettable moments. This time, a first-time convention-goer asked me if it was strange that the husband of a candidate for national committeewoman was standing in a restricted area, trying to disrupt the speech of Jean Gannon, his wife’s opponent. He was waving a sign and rallying detractors to yell, apparently hoping to drown out Jean's speech.

“Not at all,” I replied with a laugh. “Come with me to the next Wyoming convention, and you'll see detractors walking up to the podium with a 500 Magnum or something even bigger, open carry, to distract an opposing speaker.” (Don’t worry, gun control advocates—no one is going to cause any real trouble in a room full of Second Amendment supporters.)

Jean had no issue with the disruption. She waved off the Chair’s offer to assist, walked over to the interrupting husband, and shooed him away before returning to finish her speech. 

This incident highlights the age-old argument about rights: does one candidate’s husband have a First Amendment right to try to drown out Jean’s speech, or is he infringing on her right to speak? Jean, however, handled it with composure and completed her speech.

At this Virginia GOP convention in Hampton, there were about 1,000 attendees. To date myself, I saw the Grateful Dead here in 1983, just weeks before graduating from Benedictine High School (which also produced Steve Bannon).

Roger, Diane, and I (pictured above) had run field operations for Ollie North at a record-breaking 1994 Virginia Republican convention, where 14,500 delegates paid $35 each to choose him as the U.S. Senate nominee. The difference between Virginia GOP conventions and those in other states is the number of political consultants and policy employees from Northern Virginia counties Fairfax and Loudoun.

Back then, we were paid a few thousand dollars a month for a few months to drive around the state recruiting supporters. Now, there are many full-time positions available. I spoke with a Fairfax resident I hadn’t seen in years. His company now has dozens of full-time employees, and he bluntly said their big focus was stopping the Final 5 proposal I support. This proposal aims to prevent vote-splitting among conservatives, which often results in a Democratic win.

This reminds me of the old lawyer joke: a town might be too small for one lawyer but big enough for two. If my support of Final 5 results in political companies hiring people to oppose it, at least I’m creating jobs LOL. Hopefully, all conservatives focus on turning out voters through November, and we can return to policy fights after the election.

Like at the Wisconsin convention two weeks earlier, one of my favored candidates won, and one lost. The win was by Morton Blackwell, a mentor to me and thousands of other conservatives. I had never met his opponent, Tim Anderson, but I was very impressed by his presentation at the convention. He certainly gave Morton his toughest run in years and has a bright future.

The loss in the other race was due to the dominance of those two Northern Virginia counties. Fairfax and Loudoun County gave 76 percent of their votes to Jean’s opponent for RNC Committeewoman, despite the majority of voters throughout Virginia's other 93 counties as well as independent cities supporting Jean.

Excluding those two counties, Jean led by 459 votes across the rest of the state. However, due to the weighting of convention votes, every person in Fairfax effectively cast 7.7 votes, giving Jean’s opponent a 994-vote margin in the two counties to overcome the rest of the state.

Former President Trump faces a similar challenge. Based on current polling he would win the rest of the state just as Jean did Saturday but must win by enough to offset likely large losses in  Loudoun (36% for Trump in 2020) and Fairfax (28%). This Northern Virginia dominance continues to shape state politics. 

Fairfax and Loudoun Republicans have won only one of 29 House and Senate seats (Del. Geary Higgins being the sole Republican), costing Republicans statewide control of both chambers. This trend underscores the growing impact of Northern Virginia on statewide politics. Having overwhelmed the rest of the state in the convention vote, we hope they return to organize at least a couple of wins in legislative races next year.


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