Parties Reshape, Reload For November - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Parties Reshape, Reload For November

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Virginia's political parties haven't had much time to rest, coming off a close race for governor and several special elections in the past six months. But with an all-important U.S. Senate race just around the corner, Democrats and Republicans are both bringing in new leadership to get the job done.


"Win elections, bottom line," said Shaun Kenney, a former Fluvanna County supervisor and new executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. "This really could be the best year for Republicans since 1984."

Kenney, who took on his new post in April, is charged with picking up the pieces after some big Republican losses last year.

"I don't think there's a real consensus that we got beat, I think it's that we lost," he said.

Kenney points to well-documented in-fighting within the Republican ranks, leading to a lack of unity in 2013. The results speak for themselves - Democrats swept every statewide election in 2013, the first Democratic sweep in more than two decades.

"We didn't do the hard work necessary, we didn't stay on message, we didn't you know really do the sort of grassroots campaigning that Republicans are famous for in Virginia," he said.

Under his new leadership, Kenney says that's all about to change. With a long history as a fundraiser and political operative, he says he's ready to get the state GOP back on track in 2014, just in time for the November midterm elections pitting popular incumbent Democrat Mark Warner against presumed Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, a former chair of the Republican National Committee with plenty of connections.

"Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated," he said.


Republicans are counting on Kenney, but Democrats have chosen their own general to lead them into battle.

"Win elections, that's what we're here for," said Robert Dempsey, the new executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. "Our main focus is re-electing Senator Warner, and we're going to do everything we need to do to return him to the US Senate."

Dempsey came on board just two weeks ago, after a stint in a similar role in North Carolina. His first order of business: pushing for a repeat of 2013.

"Right now it's a matter of making sure that our apparatus that was set up in 2013 is continued into 2014," Dempsey said.

Much of that will come down to fundraising, and with more money in the bank and more people in statewide office, Democrats could have an edge over the competition.

"I think that allows us an opportunity to really come up with a long-range plan," Dempsey said.

"They do have a better logistics train than we do at this point in time by virtue of having those statewide [offices]," Kenney said.

But Kenney and other Republicans are ready for the fight. The annual Republican Party convention next month is bound to boost GOP coffers and give party enthusiasm a shot in the arm.

"I think we're going to be able to put a different narrative in 2014 that maybe, just maybe, Republicans really do have a better way of governing the commonwealth than our Democratic counterparts," Kenney said.

Democrats, meanwhile, will try to keep the ball rolling.

"Making sure that we're maintaining that momentum, again, that's providing the resources," Dempsey said. "Making sure that people are excited, they understand what's at stake."

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