Jack Wilson, chairman of the 4th District GOP committee, said Friday that he has the backing of two-thirds of the party’s governing body in his bid to become the next chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Wilson, a lawyer from Chesterfield County, released the names of 52 members of the State Central Committee who have publicly endorsed his candidacy.

The names on the list include Mike Thomas, the party’s first vice chairman, who is presiding on an interim basis until the State Central Committee picks the party’s new chairman on Sept. 8; former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the party’s finance chairman; and the party’s leaders in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 9th districts.

John Whitbeck, chairman of the state GOP since 2015, stepped down July 21.

Wilson appears poised to take over the party’s chairmanship at the height of a challenging congressional campaign season. Several GOP House members seeking re-election, including Reps. Rob Wittman, R-1st; Scott Taylor, R-2nd; Dave Brat, R-7th; and Barbara Comstock, R-10th; do not appear eager to campaign with the party’s U.S. Senate nominee, Corey Stewart.

Wilson said in a phone interview that the party will support its nominees. He added: “Each of our nominees is going to run the campaign that suits their congressional district.”

Wilson said he thinks Stewart’s performance in his first debate with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., last Saturday at the Omni Homestead, will help his cause. “A Senator Stewart would be much better for Virginia and Republicans than a Senator Kaine,” Wilson said.

In his letter to fellow SCC members, Wilson said the list of his supporters reflects “a diverse cross-section of our party” and he urged party unity.

The Virginia GOP has not won a statewide contest since 2009, when Bob McDonnell led a sweep for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

“None of us is under the illusion that the next few months or years will be easy in Virginia,” Wilson wrote. “The Democrat trend in Virginia was built over many years, due to a variety of factors, and the political landscape will not change overnight.

“But, we must start here and now not only to stop the trend, but to reverse it. While I can’t guarantee we will always be victorious, I can guarantee that we will work together with maximum effort for our nominees.”

Wilson, a U.S. Army captain from 1983-87, worked for a Richmond law firm for 18 years before setting up his own small Chesterfield firm that specializes in real estate matters. He was a member of the Chesterfield County Planning Commission from 2003-2007 and was its chairman in 2006.

Chuck Smith, a Virginia Beach lawyer who sought the GOP nomination for attorney general in 2017 but did not qualify for the primary ballot, says he also is seeking the party chairmanship. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, beat Smith by more than 40 percentage points in a 2010 U.S. House race.

Smith, a retired Marine and Navy JAG officer, is African-American, fluent in Spanish and is a former chairman of the Virginia Beach GOP. He says he has been “a Trump supporter since day one.”

Smith said he has reached out to members of the State Central Committee and many have not returned his calls. He faulted what he called “the good old boy system.”

Without speaking to him and reading his credentials, Smith said, “how do you know which candidate is the best?”

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acain@timesdispatch.com

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