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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
The stakes will be high at tonight's Culpeper County Republican Committee meeting.
The 7 p.m. meeting in the Culpeper High School cafeteria is expected to attract several hundred people and may decide who will be the county's next commonwealth's attorney. It may also decide the future direction of the local GOP.
Drawing the most attention from the gathered voters will be the hotly contested nomination for commonwealth's attorney in November's special election.
Interim Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Walther and Megan Revis Frederick both want the GOP endorsement in their bid to replace Gary Close. Close resigned March 12 after a federal judge issued a highly critical opinion of tactics used in the conviction of Michael Wayne Hash in 2001.
Walther, who has been with the commonwealth's attorney's office for almost two decades, was appointed to the top spot upon Close's resignation.
Frederick, who was born and raised in Culpeper, has moved back primarily to seek the commonwealth's attorney position.
The 40-year-old attorney received her law degree two years ago and, after beginning her career with a private law firm, also worked as an assistant under Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Both candidates have been campaigning, with Frederick even buying radio spots in an attempt to get her supporters to the mass meeting to vote.
Close, the first Republican ever elected to a constitutional office in Culpeper, was re-elected to a sixth term this past November. The special-election winner will serve out the final three years of that term.
Since the GOP has dominated Culpeper politics for the past 20 years and no one else has expressed interest
Tonight's meeting will also decide the GOP nominee for a second November special election, the one to replace Salem District Supervisor Tom Underwood, who resigned earlier this month to take a job in Chicago.
Lou Ann Toomey and Alexa Fritz are seeking that nomination. The winner will almost certainly face competition in November.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint Underwood's interim replacement in May. That person will serve until the November election.
A third election--for committee chairman--may decide the future direction of the local party itself. Current Chairman Steve Nixon, representing the more mainstream Republicans, is running against Al Aitken, who is more conservative.
Although it is a Republican mass meeting, those who attend are not required to be party members to vote.