Showdown over city GOP ends; chair keeps post

Posted: March 28, 2014

The Winchester Star

Beau Correll
Suellen Knowles
Winchester Republicans and a few guests listen as Suellen Knowles, standing at podium, gives her speech for the Winchester Republican Committee chair seat at a WRC mass meeting held Thursday night at the Shenandoah University Health Professions Building. Knowles challenged sitting party chairman Beau Correll and lost. She said after the vote that she was glad having a contested race drew a crowd of 182 voters. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Beau Correll was re-elected chairman of the Winchester Republican Committee Thursday night.

Registered city voters who identify as Republicans were eligible to vote in the mass meeting, held in the Shenandoah University Health Professions Building on the Winchester Medical Center campus.

Correll began his second two-year term after defeating Suellen Knowles.

He declined to disclose the vote tally as a “courtesy” to Knowles.

Former committee chairman Vince Di Benedetto, who supported Knowles but was barred from voting because of statements he made last summer in support of a Democratic House of Delegates candidate, said the vote total was 96-86.

Di Benedetto and two other former committee chairmen, Gary Chrisman and Patricia Jackson, authored a commentary that ran in The Winchester Star on Wednesday that accused Correll of being “very I-centered,” lacking attention to detail and “very closed in his thinking.”

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Correll and Knowles and a supporter for each spoke.

Winchester City Sheriff Les Taylor said Correll helped him mount a successful two-month campaign last fall. Taylor said he calls him “the defibrillator.”

“I call him that because he jump-started my campaign,” he said. “Beau is a leader among leaders in fundraising, and he’s also a very savvy campaign strategist.”

Correll said he promised the committee the “ABCs” two years ago: “assist” Republican candidates, “build” the committee and stay true to “core” Republican ideas.

“Ask yourself which candidate will we go forward with, which candidate will we continue to succeed with, which candidate has the technical expertise and the proven record to keep succeeding for us and with us,” he said.

Winchester Commissioner of the Revenue Ann Burkholder said Knowles “brings a wealth of experience outside politics,” and would be “welcoming to a broad spectrum of Republicans and prospective Republicans.”

“Being chairman is more than just calling a monthly meeting,” Knowles said. “More important is what you accomplish in between the meetings. I have the time and the passion to be a full-time chairman. Growing our party, spreading our message and supporting our candidates will be my first priority.”

Knowles said after the vote she was glad to see that having a contested race helped draw a crowd of 182 voters.

“I hope it will just be the beginning of building and growing our party,” she said.

Correll said he was “absolutely enthused that Winchester Republicans approved of the progress we’ve been making.”

He congratulated Knowles for putting forth a “spirited campaign.”

“It’s important to get other viewpoints in the Republican Party,” Correll said. “That’s how the Republican Party grows.”

Although most of the 200-plus people who attended the mass meeting left following the vote, several congressional candidates, or their representatives, also addressed the meeting.

Susan Allen, wife of former Virginia governor and U.S. senator George Allen, spoke on behalf of Del. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna.

Comstock is one of six candidates seeking the nomination in the April 26 party canvass. The others are Clear Brook businessman and housing industry advocate Marc Savitt; Loudoun County conservative businessman Stephen Hollingshead; 13th District state Del. Bob Marshall of Manassas; Capitol Hill staff member Rob Wasinger and conservative activist and retired Navy officer Howie Lind. There will be a party canvass to select the nominee on April 26.

The Democratic candidate is John Foust, a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The election is Nov. 4.

“She’s one of the hardest working legislators in all of Virginia,” Allen said of Comstock. “She’s willing to take tough stands when it’s right for the people she represents.”

Marshall touted his conservative credentials.

“If you like the way [Speaker of the House] John Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor are running Congress, you probably won’t want to vote for me,” he said.

A small-business owner, Savitt said he’s running because federal regulations are hurting small business people.

Hollingshead said he wanted to go to Washington because “there’s an unprecedented abuse of power” going on there.

“We need somebody to go across the river and stand up to the Washington establishment, the career politicians of both parties and [President] Barack Obama and tell them all to stop it,” he said.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com