John Whitbeck, an attorney who lives in Lansdowne, has resigned as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
He announced his resignation Saturday and was vague about the reason. “Other political opportunities have arisen for me that I am thinking about pursuing,” he told members of the party’s governing board at a meeting according to news reports.
He declined Loudoun Now’s request for comment.
Many believe the shakeup at the top of the GOP was triggered by Corey Stewart’s win for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. It’s caused a split in the party, with some Republican donors and voters vowing to support his Democratic opponent, incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine.
Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, won over far-right voters with his outspoken support of gun rights, preserving Confederate memorials and reducing the immigrant population. Stewart was the Virginia state chairman of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In October 2016, the Trump campaign fired him after he participated in an unsanctioned protest against the Republican National Committee.
Stewart issued a statement after Whitbeck’s resignation stating, “Thank you for your service to the Republican Party of Virginia, John Whitbeck. When selecting the new Chairman, party leadership should choose a strong leader who will fight for President Trump and his America First agenda.”
Whitbeck has served as the state party chairman since 2015. Prior to that, he served as chairman of the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee. He’s run for two state elected offices: In the 2013 special election to succeed Democrat Mark Herring in the 33rd District Virginia Senate, he lost to Democrat Jennifer Wexton, and in 2011, he ran for the 10th District House of Delegates seat, and lost in a GOP primary to Randy Minchew.
In a statement from Loudoun County Republican Committee, Chairman Jim Bonfils thanked Whitbeck for his leadership and wisdom over the years. “You have been a great friend to the Loudoun County Republican Committee and to me personally. Your insightful leadership with RPV will be missed. … We look forward to seeing all that you continue to accomplish.”
Since Stewart won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate race last month, two other state party leaders have also stepped down. Kevin Gentry, vice president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, left his position on the executive committee of the party’s governing board, and Davis C. Rennolds stepped down as chairman of the Richmond GOP.