The Clerk of Soul

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Religion and politics? Maybe Brian Withnell, like so many of us, could not quite crack the code.

More from the Loudoun County Republican Convention:


How do I work this? I was a bit dumbfounded about how to best maximize the fortuitous melding of Republican politics and Christian real estate.

I needn't have worried. After Brian Withnell gave his reasonably nuts-and-bolts speech about why he wished to be Clerk of the Circuit Court, it all became very clear.

As soon as Withnell left the podium, the lights dimmed and the spotlight swirled as fog covered the stage floor.

A twangy, syncopated funky bass line cut through the thick air. I was wondering whether this was Bootsy Collins from his P-Funk days or his Talking Heads days when, suddenly, a tall figure appeared stage right flanked by two hunched-over assistants who pulled the shiny, purple cloak from his back as he stepped up to the mike.

A booming voice exclaimed "Ladies and gentlemen of the Republican Convention, give it up now for the CLERK OF SOUL!!"

The white lights zapped to full intensity as he shouted "Hellooo, RePUBLICANS!!! Are you all proud to be REPUBLICANS??!"

We all shouted "Yeah!"


Your humble correspondent cannot afford a camera fast enough to capture cleanly the whirlwind of motion and light that IS the Clerk of Soul

"And are you proud to be here affirming the principles of representative government?"

We all screamed "YEAHHH!"

"And are you HAVING A GOOD TIME!!!?"


The funk went up numerous decibels, we all began clapping, while this amazing showman commenced telling us each our life stories. The entire auditorium seemed to sway:

"I believe in our families and communities, do YOU?!!"


"Do you believe in the HOPE of our principles and the TRUTH of our conservative movement and the FAITH of our dedication to what we have always held dear?!!"


The guy in the seat next to me asked "What does any of this have to do with his Clerk of Court job?"

I answered, "For the love of all that is good and holy, man, DON'T THINK ABOUT IT - JUST EXPERIENCE IT!!!"

And at that moment I realized:

Brian Withnell was merely running for Clerk of Court.

Gary Clemens was running for Clerk of GOD. And how you gonna compete with that?


Clemens bounded from one side of the stage to the other, delineating the accomplishments of his office:

"We cut wait times from an average of 30 minutes to 22 minutes."


"We met all federal standards for on-time filing of records!"


By this time I could feel the subconscious excitement building and the hairs on my neck began to stick up. Something strange was happening here, some preternatural expression of bureaucratic excellence on the level of the Pharoahs and the Caesars. My arms were twitching; the audience was shouting incomprehensibly, when Clemens let loose the cannon blast:

"In 2005, the state compensation board recognized my office as being ranked in the top 15 out of 120 offices in Virginia for financial management practices."

My neck muscles tensed and my eyes bulged while an explosion formed in my lungs; my head shook spastically from side to side as I exclaimed "YEAHHHH!!! YEAHHHH!!!"

I looked at my neighbor and our eyes locked as we both shouted in unison "OHHHHH!! YEAHHHHH!!!".

Financial management practices? Oh, gosh, yeah! That's WHY I became a Republican.

The entire crowd went berserk. I needed air so I lurched out into the aisle, lay down on the floor, watched the ceiling spin above me, gasped for air, when suddenly a wing-tipped toe smashed into my chest between the 3rd and 4th ribs. It was Deacon Ken Reid, charging down the aisle.

Or leaping, I should say. I should have been more careful.

I had noticed during Brian Withnell's speech that the Deacon was jogging up and down the aisles passing out signs and whispering instructions. The Deacon covered the entire hall, from one end to the other, and by the time Rev. Clemens was into his sermon, the Deacon was literally jitterbugging with his "Clemens" signs and rousting others to join in.

I tried to get in sync but it was hard. Clemens exclaimed "We have established standard operating procedures. We have provided training for our staff."

This denotation of bureaucratic accomplishment is surely red-meat for most Republicans so the cries rang out "YEAHHHH!! AUGGHHHHH!!! WHOOOO-HOOOOO!!!"

But I was pretty sure some internal organs were damaged so as much as I wanted to join the shouting, I just rolled to the side of the aisle and let the Deacon have his runway.


I was flecked with Deacon Reid's sweat and spittle. By this time the music was so loud, the sweat so infusive, and (I was pretty sure) incense so pervasive, I was ready to pass out.

When the Reverend said: "My fellow Clerks thought so highly of my customer service initiatives that I am first vice president of the Clerk's Association of Virginia, and if I'm elected today I'll be president!" the audience went ballistic.

Flashbulbs were popping. Women swooned. Babies wailed. Men howled and slapped each other in the face for no reason.

It was pure bedlam, but a good kind of bedlam. We all put the funk on, which is definitely what you want to get from your Clerk of Court.

[Full disclosure: Most of this post is imaginary. Only those in attendance will appreciate the elements which bear on reality.]

[UPDATE: Loudoun Insider is labeling this post and the fact we DARED to print a letter from Brian Withnell an "assault" on Gary Clemens. Apart from the fact I wrote immediately after the Convention I was planning to have fun at Gary's expense - thereby giving him plenty of time to brace himself - I think Gary's speech was unusual enough to merit some kidding. LI has become a bit of a Withnell-phobe and it appears he will not rest easy until Brian Withnell leaves the country and is expunged from all public records. I have to believe Gary Clemens has slightly thicker skin.]

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Doug Kins said:

This is a great article, we were there and witnessed "The Clerk of Soul" in his time of triumph! Go Gary Clemens!

Big Al said:

I voted for Gary Clemens, but his intro speech made me think I was at a Redskins rally and he was going to introduce the starting line-up. The speaking style of some of our candidates presumes the louder and obnoxious they talk, the more votes they'll get.

Clemens, Jack Ryan and especially Bruce Tulloch could use some remedial training.

Dean Settle said:

Gary sure does know how to charge the crowd. They got louder every time he pointred at them. The guy is untouchable.John Grigsby SHOULD have known this, were he not some insigniicant little man with visions of actually playing the Wizard behind the curtain in that movie.....


This is clearly a one of a kind tribute to the religious and spiritual experience of everyone roaring and cheering a Clerk candidate. This creative work will stand as an eternal record of a fabulous speech. The best of the convention, any convention, ever.

Fan, that's exactly what I am trying to communicate. Thank you for writing what is probably the best comment ever submitted at NVTH Blog.

There you go again, "Angry Dean" Settle. At least you didn't dip into the commode for the vocabulary of your posting, this time.

I, and nearly 30% of the delegates, supported Brian Withnell, a complete outsider and political novice with little time to build an organization, and less money. It will turn out that he spent far far far less than Gary did, to retain his $130,000/year job.

So how did this complete unknown get nearly 30% of the vote? It was the power of the argument.

First, Gary Clemens raced to put highly sensitive personal records online, despite an 8-0-1 Board of Supervisors vote asking him not to do so until this information had been redacted. (Eugene Delgaudio abstaining for partisan reasons, though he opposed it too).

Second, the audit of his office just as he came in was clean, but two years later it was a mess, and remained so through the next audit.

Additionally, Gary Clemens, when he thinks he is free to do so without penalty, supports "establishment Republicans" in intraparty contests, over conservatives.

Gary Clemens supported Ben Weber over Mark Albright.

Gary Clemens supported Steve Simpson over Greg Ahlemann.

A lot of people, believe it or not, consider the content of a speech, rather than its delivery. On content, Brian won. Think about it. No budget, no time, and the guy gets 30%. I wonder whether Gary Clemens is too prideful to consider that.

I think that Brian Withnell played for Gary Clemens the roll played four years ago by five candidates who ran against Steve Simpson. They began the educational process that culminated in Greg Ahlemann's victory.

I hope that Brian will stay in the ring. The GOP would benefit quite a bit if he were to be a candidate for any number of other positions.

He's tremendously intelligent. He's solid on the issues. Above all, he is a complete gentleman (something we all could be more of, myself included).

Dean Settle said:

And he'll get his but handed to him again in the next election.
Gary is the man.
Am I angry? I'm angry at a bunch of whackjobs who do not represent the general public and will soon become extinct after they piss the RPV off one more time.
I think the exact phrase uttered in the 10th District office was "you'd better win big in November or we'll revisit dissolving the local Committee". The clock is ticking...and it doesn't look good to be a lunatic fringe when trying to communicate with actual voters.

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