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Virginia Republican Party's chairman resigns after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting in the eavesdropping case.
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Date published: 8/13/2003
Soon after news about the eavesdropping became public, another blow: It was reported that Wilkins had settled a sexual harassment complaint, and he quickly resigned.
Thomson's plea and resignation is "just one more scandal for a Republican party that has been rocked by them in the past couple of years," said University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato. "The Republicans certainly don't look good after Vance Wilkins and Ed Matricardi and now this. It's very embarrassing for the GOP and suggests a certain level of corruption and arrogance in the majority party.It certainly doesn't help the image of the party or the image of politics."
But so far, Virginia voters don't seem to want to punish the party at the voting booth. Republicans still hold the majority of seats in the General Assembly, and in Virginia's congressional delegation, and that's unlikely to change in this fall's legislative elections.
Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, said any political fallout from the eavesdropping scandal probably happened last year, when it first broke.
"It's a real stretch to take something that happened a couple of years ago and imply that the party itself is somehow tainted," said Joint Republican Caucus director Scott Leake. "If you think back in history, these sorts of things have happened to both Republicans and Democrats. This is the act of one, or perhaps two or three individuals. But it's not something that pervades the Republican Party in Virginia. And I don't think anyone who's reasonable or fair-minded would say that."
However, it's not clear whether the investigation into the eavesdropping episode is over. The news release from U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty's office, announcing Thomson's plea, did not declare an end to the investigation, and a spokeswoman from McNulty's office said she could neither confirm nor deny that the investigation is continuing.
But Warner said party officials should be working harder on their own to ferret out any further problems.
"This thing seems to have no end," Warner told reporters. "What's going on over there? Why haven't the top Republican officials gotten to the bottom of this? I think all of us in both parties that are playing by the rules hope this will be the final chapter in this sorry incident."
With Thomson's resignation, Vice-Chairman Michael E. Thomas will serve as acting chairman until the state central committee meets to select a new chairman.
Kilgore and U.S. Sen. George Allen have asked Winchester Republican activist Kate Obenshain Griffin to seek the chairmanship. Griffin, who worked in Allen's gubernatorial administration, is the daughter of Richard Obenshain, who died in a plane crash in 1978 while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat.
Other names being bandied about are Delegates Kirk Cox and Chris Jones and party treasurer Richard Neel.
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