Winchester GOP bans ex-chairman

Posted: March 29, 2014

The Winchester Star

When Vince Di Benedetto came to the Winchester Republican Committee mass meeting on Thursday night, he was told he could attend as a guest, but not as a party member.
Beau Correll denied asking Vince Di Benedetto to run for City Council. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Former city Republican Party chairman Vince Di Benedetto has RSVP’d to the party, but discovered that his invitation has been rescinded.

When Di Benedetto arrived at the Winchester Republican Committee mass meeting on Thursday night, he was told he could attend as a guest, but not as a party member.

That also meant he couldn’t vote in the election for committee chairman.

Di Benedetto, who represents Ward 2 on the Winchester School Board, had intended to vote for Suellen Knowles, who eventually lost to incumbent Chairman Beau Correll.

But Di Benedetto’s support last summer for Mary Costello Daniel — a Democratic candidate for the 33rd District House of Delegates seat — got him in hot water with the party.

In August, he attended a meet- and-greet session held by Daniel in Bluemont.

In an Aug. 23 Winchester Star article, he stated: “For this, it just goes beyond party lines. I was very distressed when [then-33rd District Del.] Joe May didn’t get renominated, and I don’t like the direction the party is taking in particular areas.”

Di Benedetto, a campaign manager for 29th District Del. Beverly Sherwood, also said at the time that he would not vote for now-Del. Mark Berg, R-Frederick County, who defeated Sherwood in a primary last June.

“Particularly with Joe May and the Beverly Sherwood races, the message seemed to be that these two mainstream conservatives weren’t conservative enough for the Republican Party, and if they’re not, I didn’t feel like I was,” he said in August.

On Thursday, Di Benedetto — chairman of the local Republican committee from 1994 until 2001 — supplied a letter dated March 27 from Berg, whose district comprises Winchester and portions of Frederick and Warren counties, and 33rd District Del. Dave LaRock, who represents parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties.

Addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” the letter states: “We all expect those on our Republican team to stay loyal to our team and to refrain from being openly critical of efforts to elect Republicans.”

The letter cites the August Star article.

“I was shocked to learn last year that Vince Di Benedetto followed the footsteps of [former Republican state senator] Russ Potts and came out to support my Democratic opponent and criticized the Party ...,” the letter states. “What is more disturbing is that he broke his pledge to support Republican nominees, a pledge that he made in his 2013 pre-file form to be elected as a Republican delegate representing the City of Winchester in last year’s state convention.”

This should disqualify him from “participation in Party actions” for four years, according to the letter.

“Even if it does not, I would hope that Winchester Republican voters would not allow him either to participate in their proceedings or be on the Republican Committee,” it adds.

Di Benedetto, who wore a sticker marked “Guest,” said on Thursday night that he had been a member of the committee for 26 years.

“I’m not challenging it here,” he said. “We will do it later. To me, this just [shows] exactly why Beau Correll needs to be replaced. He’s trying to build the party through subtraction.”

Two weeks ago, Di Benedetto said, Correll asked him to consider running for the Second Ward City Council seat held by Democrat Evan Clark.

“At the same time asking me to support him for chairman, and when I told him I wouldn’t do that, now two weeks later, he says I’m not a Republican,” he said. “Beau Correll is the reason why this state has gone from red to purple. [He’s] extreme and vindictive.”

Di Benedetto said he was not interested in running for the City Council because he did not think he could win.

He said the tally in the chairmanship race on Thursday was 96-86 for Correll, “so it’s a very divided party.”

Correll said Di Benedetto left the local committee in June, and his request to rejoin was rejected by the Nominations Committee, the Credentials Committee and the party as a whole.

“The Nominations Committee voted that due to his comments both in opposing Republican nominees and, I would assume, the acidic nature of his [commentary that ran in The Star Wednesday], that he would be more divisive to our committee than a team player,” Correll said.

The commentary, which Di Benedetto co-signed with Patricia Jackson and Gary Chrisman — also former Republican Committee chairmen — was critical of Correll.

Correll said the list of people voted onto the committee was unanimously approved by those in attendance at the mass meeting.

“None of his supporters raised an objection to him being left off,” Correll said. “When two statehouse delegates state that they have a problem with someone that supports Democrats being on the committee, you have to listen.”

He denied asking Di Benedetto to run for the City Council.

“I asked a lot of people if they would be interested because one of the jobs as chairman is to take the temperature out there, and I do want to say if anyone is interested in City Council to contact me,” Correll said.

“I didn’t ask him to run. That’s ridiculous, from what I remember of that conversation.”

— Contact Sally Voth