Abernathy named state GOP executive director

By Chris Dickerson and Kelly Holleran | Dec 11, 2008


CHARLESTON -- The former executive director of the state Republican Party is back in that position.

Gary Abernathy accepted the position Thursday.

"When (Chairman) Doug McKinney offered me the opportunity, I gladly accepted it because I love this state and the Republican Party," Abernathy said Thursday evening. "My heart is and always has been with the party, even after I left the organization a few years ago."

Abernathy said he is excited to work with McKinney to "evitalize the party and make it as strong as possible for 2010."

"We have a great pool of talent in the Republican Party, and we want to reach out to all Republicans to shape the vision and goals of the party in the coming months," he said. "There is an opportunity here that the Republican Party needs to work toward achieving on behalf of the people of West Virginia.

"I refuse to give up hope."

Abernathy noted how the party had 13 members of the state Senate just a few years ago. Now, that number is down to eight of the 34 senators.

"We were just five seats short of a majority," he said, adding that he thinks the Senate is the chamber where his party has to best chance to gain a majority quicker. "And I know Tim Armstead (House minority leader) has a plan place to gain seats in the House."

Abernathy said work on the 2010 election needs to start immediately.

"After 80 years of Democratic control in the Legislature, we see the condition of the state has resulted from it," he said. "We need to win these races, and we need to do it now."

Abernathy said he believes that a stronger GOP would have resulted in November victories for state Supreme Court candidate Beth Walker and for Attorney General candidate Dan Greear.

"It was very disappointing," Abernathy said of Walker and Greear's close defeats. "But they fell short because of the lack of a fully funded, fully staffed and fully engaged state party. Doug realizes that, and it's not his fault.

"We've got to get out the vote and provide support for all of the candidates across the state. If we had that last month, Dan Greear and Beth Walker would have won."

He said efforts by other Democrats to thwart a plan suggested by Gov. Joe Manchin for the non-partisan judicial elections is a perfect example of why more Republicans need to be in offices statewide.

"(Senate Majority Leader) Truman Chafin's letter to the Judicial Association about keeping partisan elections is bullying," Abernathy said. "Their stranglehold on the Legislature allows them to do that."

A comprehensive plan detailing the party's initiatives and goals for 2009 will be unveiled in January, McKinney and Abernathy said.

For example, the pair hopes to recruit Republicans who may not want to run for office, but who have other talents that can help the party flourish, Abernathy said.

"Dr. McKinney has worked hard to eliminate the party's debt and make sure that the party's fundraising can be focused on future victories and not past obligations," Abernathy said. "We both share a goal to work with our current officeholders to recruit the best candidates for the 2010 legislative races."

Fundraising and communication are the party's primary needs, and Abernathy will focus on a plan to ensure the party has the resources needed to put technology and manpower in place to meet the needs of candidates, county chairs and grassroots activists, McKinney said.

Another of Abernathy's goals is to work with McKinney and existing party staff to make sure the Republican Party is viewed as receptive to those who want to be involved.

Program unveiled in January will focus on achieving that, Abernathy said.

"The more you work in this business, the more you understand that no one has all the answers," he said. "We can't be successful with only a small circle of people doing all the work or making all the decisions. I want the party to reach out to every Republican who wants to have a voice in the GOP's future, and I want them to know that their opinions, advice and contributions will be valued and appreciated."

Many of the party's elected officials, donors and activists share a belief that a strong state party is essential for future GOP success, Abernathy said.

"I believe we're well positioned to turn the corner and charge full steam ahead," he said. "With the help of Republicans across the state, we'll be ready for battle when the 2010 election draws near. Dr. McKinney and I share that goal. We both wholeheartedly agree that the state party exists for one reason only – to elect more Republicans to office. We'll work hard in the months to come to position the party and its candidates to achieve that goal."

In the past, Abernathy served as communications director for the Ohio Republican Party for four years, then as executive director of the West Virginia GOP from 2001 until 2004. He also has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor and as a consultant for candidates and grassroots issue initiatives.

His seven years of experience will give the Republican Party the opportunity to rebuild and prepare for the 2010 elections, McKinney said.

"I look forward to working with Gary and all Republicans across the state as we develop the tools we need to win at the state and local levels."

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