It was a “Motion from hell,” Republican Party of Virginia Chair Richard Anderson said during the hours-long discussion of the RPV’s nomination method for 2021.
Eventually, in a surprise move, the RPV State Central Committee voted 41 to 28 in favor of holding a convention instead of a primary to nominate the party’s 2021 Virginia candidates. Many GOP insiders expected the vote to be razor thin.
The Saturday afternoon decision to hold a convention makes probable gubernatorial candidate businessman Pete Snyder the early favorite for the Republican nomination.
Snyder has strong grassroots support, and has helped Virginia’s business community with the Virginia 30 Day Fund, a non-profit aimed at businesses struggling during COVID-19. Snyder, who has not yet declared his candidacy, declined to comment.
John Fredericks told The Star that the noted conventioneer consultant team Chris Shores and wife Diana Shores helped secure convention votes. Fredericks dubbed the couple Bonnie and Clyde on The John Fredericks Radio Show, referring to their history of winning consistent victories in RPV conventions. “They steal them fair and square. If you are running in a convention, you want them running your show,” Fredericks said.
Potential candidate and former CEO of the international Carlyle Group Glenn Youngkin is unlikely to run now that a convention has been selected, since he will have a harder time overcoming low name recognition and competing in the personal type of campaigning a convention dictates.
“He’s very wealthy [and] can fund at least a lot of his primary race,” Brown said. She said Youngkin’s lack of experience with the internal party process of a convention is a handicap.
Gubernatorial Fireworks: Chase Launches Missiles
Immediately after the vote, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) announced on Facebook that she would run for governor as an independent.
“It’s official. While I am a Republican; I will be seeking the nomination in a primary as an Independent,” Chase said. “It’s the only way to bypass the political consultants and the Republican establishment elite who slow play the rules or even cheat grassroots candidates. They have demonstrated consistently that they are out of touch with the people of Virginia and now they are only allowing the party elite to participate.”
In a statement Saturday, gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) slammed Chase.
“Amanda Chase’s antics have long grown more than tiresome,” Cox said. “Her threat to run as an independent is based solely on the fact that she knows principled, conservative Republicans will never tolerate the demagogue she has become.”
Cox declined to express a preference between convention or primary. The former Speaker of the House of Delegates has decades of mainstream political experience that give him a good chance in either system.
Chase announced her candidacy for governor in February 2020, and she’s spent the following months campaigning across Virginia. Her take-no-prisoners speaking style, combined with a hard-line pro-gun, pro-monument stance has attracted a core of committed supporters.
As an independent candidate, Chase may spoil the governor’s race for Republicans in the general election.
“I don’t want to say I think the governor’s race is lost already, I won’t go that far,” Brown said. “I’m just saying somebody needs to talk some sense into Ms. Chase.”
Brown said Chase has been campaigning like she was hoping for a convention, and Brown thinks Chase would have a solid chance in the convention nomination process. Additionally, Brown said independents don’t win races.
Republicans had hoped to win the 2021 governor’s race in part because of the “Virginia curse,” a phenomenon where the party that controls the presidency loses Virginia’s executive seat. However, it’s unclear if that pattern remains as Virginia shifts increasingly blue.
Guaranteeing Chase a spot in the general election is good news for down-ballot Republican candidates. With redistricting occurring in Virginia, the House of Delegates will be in play. Chase juices enthusiasm among voters who would be ambivalent about Cox or Snyder, meaning more Republican-leaning voters will vote in local General Assembly House races.
A convention is a big win for Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach). In 2017, Davis toured Virginia in “Mellow Yellow,” his Winnebago motor home. As a result of that campaign for lieutenant governor, Davis is known across the state and has broad grassroots connections. Davis wouldn’t say what his preference was. However, on Saturday evening, he told The Virginia Star that he was glad for the clarity, since they’ve been preparing to run in either process.
“We’re just excited. My team is pumped right now. They’ll redouble their efforts starting tomorrow morning,” Davis said.
Candidate Lance Allen faces tougher odds as a newcomer to the RPV. “As a new candidate I think each one has its advantages and disadvantages.” Allen added, “We’ll have to change our game because it is not exactly what we were expecting.”
“At the end of the day I’m happy to participate in whatever the nomination method is that the party chooses,” Allen said.
The choice of a convention is a blow to candidate Tim Hugo. A primary would have allowed Hugo to leverage large amounts of voters in Fairfax and Northern Virginia; Hugo has years of experience representing Fairfax in the House of Delegates, although he was defeated in 2019.
“I look forward to running in the RPV convention for the office of Lieutenant Governor, ” Hugo said in a statement. “Our campaign is working hard to build a statewide operation that will not only win us the nomination, but also defeat the Democrats next November. In the months ahead, we will be taking our conservative message to Republican voters in every corner of our Commonwealth.”
Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) would have been the favorite in a primary. Miyares’ experience has given him fundraising connections that candidate Chuck Smith has had to build from scratch. However, with the convention format, Smith could become the E.W. Jackson of 2021. In 2013, Jackson gave a fiery speech and leveraged grassroots connections to win the convention nomination.
“I look forward to running in a party-run nomination for Attorney General next year,” Miyares said in a statement on Facebook. “With today’s State GOP Committee vote, the Republican Party of Virginia launches a 2021 election cycle where Republicans are fired up to fight back against progressive one-party rule in Richmond.”
Smith’s Campaign Manager David Knupp told The Star that they had no preference between primaries or conventions. “We’re just delighted to be part of the process and to get out to every corner of the state to have Chuck tell his message to the [delegates,] and we think that that message he has will resonate with everybody.”
Tough Road Ahead
According to candidate for the House of Delegates 83rd District Tim Anderson, RPV nominees coming out of a convention struggle to win their general election races. That will be made even tougher this year if Chase splits the conservative vote for governor.
“Virginia wants more moderate candidates on a lot of these issues,” Anderson said on Friday. “But generally the conventions push out a hard-right candidate. And we’ve been doing it over and over and over again, and these candidates lose.”
“I think it’s a mistake,” Brown said of the choice for a convention. “I’m honestly really surprised that they did that, I think that there’s a few people that have always been [in favor of] primaries before that changed their minds for some reason.”
– – –
John Fredericks is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Virginia Star.
He is also a Trump 2020 delegate and the chairman of the Trump Virginia Delegation.