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McClure wins bid for Halifax County GOP party chair (UPDATED)

South Boston News
Halifax County Republicans moved their mass meeting to the World of Sports theater to accommodate a crowd of some 350 people. / March 18, 2016
Casting aside the regulars of the Halifax County Republican Party, Centerville Baptist pastor Todd McClure succeeded in wresting leadership of the party from county GOP Unit Chair Pat Barksdale at a mass meeting Thursday night in South Boston.

Despite endorsements from Del. James Edmunds, state Sens. Bill Stanley and Frank Ruff and party chairpersons elsewhere in the region — and robocalls by 5th District Rep. Robert Hurt, who recorded a message urging local Republicans to show up on Barksdale’s behalf — the incumbent lost to McClure, 166 to 135, on a chaotic night at The World of Sports where the mass meeting was held.

With the victory, McClure takes over the local party chair for the next two years. The defeat marks the end of Barksdale’s 10-year tenure as chair of the Halifax Republican Party — and left her and her supporters steamed over the outcome.

“I am furious with them because this was so totally unnecessary,” said Barksdale after the meeting. ”It’s just nuts. Why destroy the party over this vote?”

On Thursday night, McClure told the overflow crowd at The World of Sports that he hopes to grow the local GOP by bringing in newcomers to join forces with longtime grassroots activists in the county.

McClure stated his belief that “our rights come from God, not from government,” and said his experience as pastor of Centerville Baptist has given him “a unique skill set” to recruit voters and candidates who will advance an agenda shared by Christians and Republicans: that life begins at conception, marriage is between one man and one woman, and the party should resist the “lawlessness” of the Obama White House.

He ended by saying that for too long, “Republican leadership has not stood for these ideals as a party.”

Despite McClure’s call for new leadership, the mood inside the World of Sports theater, where the mass meeting had to be moved to accommodate the overflow crowd of some 350 people, was tense.

Speakers on behalf of Barksdale took umbrage with suggestions made by some McClure supporters that Barksdale was not Christian enough and that is the reason they supported McClure for chairman. David Fraser, a retired military and law enforcement officer who has been active in Halifax County Republican politics, said emphatically: “Pat is a Christian!”

Without saying McClure lacked the skills to serve as party chair, Fraser asked the crowd: “Don’t you want someone that knows the system we abide by, who is skilled and articulate at all levels, who abides by the creed of the Republican Party, who will further the party’s goals, help all Republicans, and pass a personal integrity test?”

To preside over the vote, participants turned to Halifax Del. James Edmunds to serve as temporary chair of the mass meeting. Edmunds took over from two temporary parliamentarians, each supporting the candidate of his choice — Virginia conservative activist Rick Boyer, who backed McClure, and James Marsden, a Farmville lawyer who supported Barksdale.

Edmunds endorsed Barksdale, calling her “a good God-fearing Christian woman,” but the voting went the other way — thanks to the stealth campaign that McClure put together after filing for the chairmanship vote on March 9, one day before the deadline.

The vote was open to all registered voters in Halifax County, and although the GOP normally tries to screen out voters who recently cast ballots for Democratic candidates, Barksdale said that wasn’t possible given the size of the crowd that came out Thursday. She said two members of the Voter Registrar’s Office were on hand Thursday night to certify that mass meeting participants were Halifax County voters, but “it was so chaotic you couldn’t do it” — screen for partisan affiliation, too.

She said that McClure and other organizers with local Baptist churches brought in supporters by the busload, although Barksdale said she didn’t witness the buses first-hand. Others at the meeting attested to seeing buses with McClure voters, however.

After the vote was completed, the packed theater mostly emptied through a side door, leaving Edmunds to announce the outcome of the election in front of a much-diminished crowd. After learning of his victory, McClure shook hands with Barksdale.

Few people stuck around afterwards for speeches by the candidates running for the Republican nomination in the 5th District congressional race.

A member of McClure’s congregation at Centerville Baptist, but also a supporter of Barksdale for chair, said, “I’ve been an active member of this party for 10 years and I’ve never seen half these people at a meeting.” From personal knowledge, she said she was able to identify McClure’s supporters as congregants from either Centerville or another local Baptist church. She asked not to be named.

Pointing across the room to McClure, she said she had never seen him “at a meeting, either.

I’ll bet they” — a reference to the members of the audience from the various Baptist churches — “don’t come to another meeting.”

The takeover of the local unit chairmanship by an outsider echoes similar leadership coups that have taken place across Virginia. The revolt has pitted party members against each other, often over the question of how Republicans should choose candidates, at conventions or by holding primary elections.

Conventions typically favor candidates who can marshal the support of grassroots activists willing to sit through long meetings where winners are chosen. Primaries draw broader participation, although critics note that since Virginia, does not register voters by party, Democrats and independents can take part in the selection of Republican candidates.

Barksdale said she believes that the effort against her ties into that debate, and was organized outside of Halifax County with local churches recruited to the effort.

The surge of voting left the local party scrambling to keep up.

“All of our plans and our script for everything were just totally torn up,” she said. “We finally had to move everyone out on the street, and from there, they were filing into the movie theater for registration. Everything was just so delayed because of the lines and being checked by the registrar. We only had two of them there, and they were wonderful help.”

“But the person that was leading this group was trying to get this all moved to the high school,” Barksdale said. “If you can imagine, moving to the high school, at night, without permission, and no key. If we were to move, I would lose individual voters. But they would not lose theirs because they were all on a bus.

“They do this all over the 5th district and probably further than that,” Barksdale explained. “And I don’t care what they say, the whole idea is not to come join us and be a part of us, but it’s to take you out and gain control of the whole vote.”

“I’ve seen it all over the 5th district, and it’s disgraceful,” she said.

“It’s a takeover,” Barksdale continued. “And the churches — it’s wonderful for them to get involved as Christians, but the way they’re doing this is wrong. They were welcome to join our unit before. And the preacher told me right to my face, when I asked him who was behind this, he said ‘Oh no one. We just decided it was time for us to get involved.’”

Efforts to contact McClure in the aftermath of the mass meeting were unsuccessful.

“I’m a fair chairman, always have been,” Barksdale said. “Anybody is welcome, and we work together and work well. The people better get more involved because our country is in such a mess. If you don’t get people up there that can make a change, I think we’ll be gone forever. And I really do mean that.”

A fellow GOP unit chair, James M. “Mike” Hankins of Lunenburg, who attended the meeting in support of Barksdale, said he has not seen similar attempts by outside conservative groups to take over local units in other counties. What happened in Halifax County was unique, he said; while there have been other changes in top leadership, the moves have been uncontested.

But Hankins added there is an unwritten understanding among party leaders that even if unit chairs do not personally agree with the political bent of a Republican candidate, they are duty bound to support that candidate. “We do not have to endorse him or her, but we must support and work for the candidate at the grassroots level,” said Hankins.

“What concerns me greatly now is that there be a smooth transition,” said Hankins. “I remember how hard it was for me when I first took over the chairmanship in Lunenburg. It is tough if you do not have a whole lot of experience or support. After the meeting I handed him [McClure] my card and told him to feel free to reach out to me.”

Hankins added he does not anticipate hearing from McClure.

The state party periodically conducts voluntary training sessions for new party officials, which McClure, if he chooses, can attend. Hankins did not know when the next classes would take place.

(Additional reporting was provided by N&R staffers Emily Jones and Tom McLaughlin)

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This guy calls himself a Christian? This will hurt the party, he got his way now lets see him work! Hopefully Pat will run again next year! SOUNDS LIKE HE IS A LIBERAL THAT WANTS HILLARY!


This is dangerous.

It's well known that hard right "Christians" are trying to gain control of politics in order to gain tax money for their religious indoctrination schools- in DIRECT conflict with the Establishment Clause.

Mr McClure, I have taken the liberty of notifying Americans United of what has happened here in Halifax. I expect they'll be watching your church and school closely, and I hope they do. I encourage anyone to practice their religion, but do not attempt to impose it on me, or especially to use my tax money to proselytize it.

My dad often said faith will save you, but religion can destroy you. These large fundamentalist churches are proof of that.


Beautiful. Now if only the Black churches and their weak willed pastors would unite and confront planned parenthood abortionists what a different world it would create. I actually love this. Christians have been told to be quiet bit that's not what we are here for. I applaud McClure's tactics and agree the Gop party has been a severe disappointment only wanting our money, telling us lies and then forwarding the status quo agenda year after year. Get ready folks we will surely see more Christians springing forward to replace cronyism and corruption.


Christians are the majority. It's time we use this advantage to gain control of the lawless political parties who only serve themselves and their campaign contributors. Hillary who after years of public service somehow amasses a $300 million net worth? How did that happen and other politicians regardless of party. Folks all meaningful change occurs locally. Washington cannot save our local economy only the people here can. Meekness is not weakness. This is a Lexington moment in politics. Congrats McClure now let's do something positive and change the course of the corrupt status quo.


I hope to see the church congregations that bombarded the Republican meeting give a most needed helping hand and funding to the Party. When will McClure have time to do all the elbow rubbing and going that Barksdale has done in the past? This is a BIG JOB. She has been a great leader for so long and well loved. Because of the way it was handled I understand the hurt feeling that was left behind. When it comes down to CHURCH AND STATE, it is two different things. I strongly believe that it should be divided to thrive. I have my relationship with God and I won’t push it off on you. I will pray for you but it will be your own choice and your own relationship to grow. I will not point my finger and say that you are going to hell, it is not my place. But I know there is a price for pride. I see down the road that their will have to be a lot of healing and I know that it will not come easy. I know that growing pains can hurt if this is what is happening. May God be with us all.


This article is filled with incorrect information to be certain. I was at this meeting and never did one, much less five, church buses come to this meeting. Many of the quotes of what he said was incorrect as well. Never once did he or any of his followers say that Mrs. Pat's Christianity was not strong enough. As far as mixing a Christian with politics I ask the question, what Republican would ever get elected if Christian's did not support that person? The answer is none! If Pat is a Christian and McClure is a Christian that would seem to make it a mute point. As far as personal attacks, like he supports Hillary Clinton, is simply infantile. Why would someone say that he wants money to run a Christian school when that is far from the truth? Personal attacks are expected, but so is truth. Church and state are two different things, but remember that 91% of American's believe in one God or another so are all of them automatically disallowed to serve?


McMillan, I see you are proving my point. I too was also there. I did see Church vans and buses. The News and Record gave an actualization of what happen in my opinions. I will answer only on my comment of CHURCH AND STATE. They are two different worlds. WE THE PEOPLE vote and are volunteer. We do not follow. We do not judge. We all have our own opinions, beliefs and God. Yes, most Republicans are Christians but there are also Jews and others who are conservatives in the Party. The fact that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of federal constitutional law. “Separation of Church and State” may never appear in the constitution itself, the Court ruling stands. Noted that of the 112 Supreme Court Justices, a fact 92% of them were Christian. Over the past 200 years the Supreme Court has shaped the constitution to contain a clear separation of church and state that protects every religion equally. One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


This story is filled with about as much misinformation and sheer falsehood as I think I've ever seen in any outlet representing itself as a newspaper. This paper did not even have a reporter present at the meeting! If folks would like to read the true story, from someone who actually witnessed it, I invite you to check out The Bull Elephant blog at

You can also read actual journalistic coverage of the meeting in the Gazette-Virginian, which actually sent a reporter, Doug Ford, to cover the meeting and accurately quoted the candidates, at


There is nothing more dangerous than an ambitious preacher and his blind flock. It's like riding in a car with Caitlyn Jenner.


The only bus on hand was the "McKelvey for Congress" RV. There was no church bus.

Most voters for BOTH candidates left after voting.

Pastor McClure's folks NEVER attacked Barksdale's religion. The attacks were all from the other direction, with endless complaints about "these church people" exercising their right to vote, and even threats to complain to the IRS that a religious person would express a political opinion!

McClure did NOT attack Barksdale. He actually said, "too often, our Republican leadership in Washington has failed to honor the promises in our platform.” This was in no way an attack on Barksdale; the only time McClure referenced Barksdale was to praise and thank her for her efforts.

Nor was it a "stealth campaign." Pastor McClure notified Barksdale in person (which he was not required to do) of his intent to run, and he mobilized a team of more than 160 people, including community leaders and folks young and old from every corner of Halifax County.


A full transcript of Chairman McClure's speech can also be found on The Bull Elephant, at


It's good to see that the News and Record has decided to actually put a reporters byline on this story and correct at least some of the inaccuracies. It's also good to see that the attack lines on Todd McClure are now at least attributed to the Barksdale campaign instead of simply stated as fact by the newspaper.


It's good to see that your original story has been updated. Some inaccuracies are removed, and others attributed as claims by the Barksdale campaign instead of stated as historical facts by the paper. And a reporter's byline has now been added to the updated and (partially) corrected story.

It's also good to see that you now some actual quotes from Chairman McClure's speech, presumably obtained from The Bull Elephant story, to which I linked in a comment on the newspaper's website - as you had no reporter there to record the quotes, and the only "quote" in the initial fictional story was nowhere to be found in the speech.

The News & Record was caught redhanded in complete fabrications. It's sad that an outfit professing to be a newspaper has to be thoroughly embarrassed publicly before it will even live up to basic standards one would expect from a mediocre high school paper - but better to make changes in the update than persist in reporting fiction as historical fact.


I would still like to know who sent the original fiction story you published...


Whatever reason Mr. McClure may have had for not responding, it is now abundantly clear that he should be extremely wary of granting interviews with this organization in the future. The original article was nothing but an unsubstantiated hack job. It could not even masquerade as legitimate reporting. If your "reporter" could fabricate 5 buses out of thin air (which now the article states Barksdale admits she didn't see), what would Mr. McClure have "said" in the article??!?


Note to the editor: If you get a lot of complaints from folks featured in this reporter's stories for inaccurate quotes, things taken out of context, and just plain bad reporting, maybe it's time to take them seriously, and not just brush them off as disgruntled over less-than-flattering portrayals. The "updated" article, though still not wholly accurate, is far better. The previous one was just a sham. How often does this happen, and you don't run any corrections because you just believe your reporter, you aren't confronted with other, accurate accounts, and you aren't called on the mat for it? How often?


I was at the meeting and I stepped outside to get fresh air. There were no buses. It seems that if Mrs. Barksdale supporters have the republican party best interest, they would stop with these lies and move on. The objectis to defeat democrats not fight among ourselves.


I see that these so called Christians would have to argue and cast blame on the subject of not having or having buses in the parking lot to cover their devilish move on the meeting. The truth is the truth.


To "The Truth":
Which side, and what devilish move, do you speak of? Both sides claim Christianity, and both sides have harped on the buses. On whom do you cast blame, and for what?

Barksdale's supporters were in charge of everything - check-in, vetting, collecting the vote, counting the vote, even announcing the vote. What "devilish" thing did they do?

Or did McClure's side cheat? Because of their willingness to cede, their participation was limited to observing and voting. What did they do?

How about you stop talking about the buses, and expose the "devilish move?" There are now 3 lengthy accounts of the meeting which openly span the spectrum of opinion: supportive of Barksdale (this website), supportive of McClure (Bull Elephant) and neutral (Gazette-Virginian). Do you speak of something mentioned in one of these accounts? Or are you suggesting that all three sides left something out?

For one who claims to know so much truth, you're being awfully mysterious.


LOL Christiana, I see that someone has step on your toes!

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