2 N.Va. GOP Leaders: ‘I’ve Had Enough With My Party’

Rep. Davis in NY Times, Snyder In Letter to N-P

Two prominent Northern Virginia Republican politicians publicly criticized their party this week, one attributing his disdain as contributing to his decision to opt out of politics, and the other angrily disassociating with the Virginia GOP.

Rep. Tom Davis, who announced last January that he would not seek re-election to another term representing Fairfax County’s 11th Congressional District, articulated his frustration with the Bush administration in an interview with journalist Peter Baker published in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Its headline read, “Tom Davis Gives Up: He Was a Star in the Republican Party. Now Like Dozens of his GOP Colleagues, He’s Quitting Congress, Fed Up with His Party, His President and The Process.”

Yesterday, Falls Church City Councilman David Snyder, a former mayor who’s been on the City Council since 1994 and is the most prominent Republican elected official in the City, announced in a letter submitted to the News-Press (printed elsewhere in this edition) that he’s disassociated with the Virginia GOP.

Snyder accented his letter with angry comments made to the News-Press in a phone interview yesterday. He said that well-publicized comments by GOP Presidential candidate John McCain’s brother, Joe McCain, in Alexandria last weekend was the “final straw.” Joe McCain, speaking at a rally in support of his brother’s campaign, said that Northern Virginia is a “communist country.”

“Such a label is deeply offensive for all of us,” Snyder said in his letter. “This is yet another reminder of the neo-McCarthyism now so much a part of the political debate.”

He concluded, “The Virginia Republican Party, under whose tent these comments were made, is not a party with which I wish to be associated for this and many other reasons, unless and until it returns to the principles of its once revered former leaders, such Abraham Lincoln and Dwight David Eisenhower.”

Asked by the News-Press to confirm that the letter constituted an announcement of a formal disassociation, Snyder said, “Absolutely.” The McCain comment “was more than the last straw,” he added, noting his long-standing differences with his party on gun and equal rights issues.

The Virginia GOP has become an “outrage,” he said. “In its present form, it has nothing to do with the party of my grandparents or parents.”

Davis, in his interview with Baker, a Washington correspondent for the New York Times, called President Bush “a disappointment,” adding, “How else can you say it?”

“I’m disappointed just in terms of his stewardship. I wrote the Katrina report. Just the fact that he wasn’t down there the next day, and he flew over it in Air Force One to get a view of it – that, to me, is not leadership.”

At 59, Davis walked away from a re-election bid this year, leaving the race to fill his 11th District seat to a political novice, Keith Fimian, who will most likely be defeated by Democrat Gerry Connolly, currently chair of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

This is despite the fact that Davis had not had a serious challenge for his seat since 1994, even once running unopposed. But, as he noted in this interview with Baker, there were signs that his lock on his seat was beginning to erode in 2006, when he won over Democrat Andy Hurst with only 55 percent of the vote. It was primarily the unpopularity of President Bush that drove down his vote total, he said.

Davis, while he awaits the end of his term on Jan. 1, is currently teaching a political history course at George Mason University. He is one of 26 Republican incumbents in Congress who decided not to seek re-election this year, and his decision to back away marked the final stage of his decline from national prominence as a rising star in the GOP. That rise peaked when he served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1998 to 2002.

He told Baker that while, as the committee’s leader, he held Republican congressional majorities in 2000 and 2002, he clashed over strategy with Karl Rove, Bush’s key operative, saying Rove “looks through the cultural prism of divide and conquer,” a charge denied by Rove.

While Snyder’s affiliation with the GOP is well known in Falls Church, he’s run in only one partisan election, unsuccessfully for state delegate against Democratic incumbent Del. Jim Scott in 2002. Otherwise, despite the two-to-one margin of registered Democrats over Republicans in the City of Falls Church, he’s been elected to four terms on the City Council in non-partisan elections.