The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) plans to meet once again on Saturday in an effort to pick a nomination method. SCC members have already voted twice to hold a convention, but a necessary amendment allowing for an unassembled convention was blocked, since the amendment needed three-fourths approval to pass.
When it became clear they couldn’t pass the amendment last Saturday, the SCC majority quickly adjourned before the minority could discuss a primary. As a result, the party has technically chosen to hold an in-person convention, illegal under the governor’s executive orders.
The agenda for the next meeting includes a vote on switching back to a primary. If that fails, the party will again vote on the party plan amendment.
It’s unclear what will change to allow a primary to be chosen. In its December 5 meeting, the SCC voted 42-30 to hold a convention. Since that vote, convention members have received harassing phone calls and threats. Gubernatorial candidate Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) has openly pressured the SCC to change its decision. As a result, pro-convention SCC members are even more entrenched in their decision, and say the pro-primary minority is holding the majority hostage.
Delegate Wendell Walker (R-Lynchburg) voted against the party plan amendment and is pro-primary. He said, “Nobody is holding anybody hostage. This has been the political battle that the party has had throughout the decades and I’ve been out here probably close to thirty years.”
Walker said he has been on both sides of the issue, but thinks that a primary is a better fit for the current RPV. He said that if majority support for a convention was so strong, the debate would be over.
“I’m hoping that the leadership of the party will step forward here. A convention is going to cost a lot of money, trying to put something together like this. I think financially, it would be in the best interest of the party to move forward with a primary. There again, it engages more people. We have to make that decision. Saturday is the day we need to make this decision and move forward here,” Walker said.
The clock is running out for primary advocates. Primaries are operated by the state, and the party must notify the state by February 23 if it plans to hold a primary. But a convention isn’t the only other party-run nomination method.
The SCC could opt for a firehouse primary, a more open process where any Republican can vote at specific times at party-operated locations. A firehouse primary does not use ranked-choice voting. Some SCC members prefer ranked-choice voting at a convention since a candidate with a hard-line dedicated base like Chase could win in a four-way primary with just 26 percent of the vote. Other more unconventional options include holding a normal convention in West Virginia.
SCC members on both sides of the issue are calling for a quick resolution so that candidates can effectively strategize, but there seems to be little movement towards a solution.
Republican National Committeewoman for Virginia Patti Lyman said in an emailed statement that the SCC had already voted twice for a convention, voting against a primary. “That was and is clear to all candidates, and the wisest candidates have already started building convention-focused campaign teams. They need an official call from RPV and for our 126 Republican Committees statewide to issue calls/delegate prefile forms so interested Virginians can sign up to be delegates. RPV Chairman Anderson must immediately appoint the necessary committees to plan and prepare for our convention so our candidates can move into the critical delegate recruitment phase of the campaign.”
Lyman added, “The only remaining issue is whether our convention is to be held legally and safely. I am confident that 75 percent of SCC members will eventually put the safety of our delegates over their personal ambitions and vote to allow a safe, distanced ‘unassembled convention’ like the one we successfully held in August 2020.”
Walker said he doesn’t know where the votes are to switch to a primary, but over the next few days SCC members are having a lot of internal discussions. He said, “We just need to move past this decision and get out there and start campaigning.”
Pro-primary SCC Member Nancy Dye said she didn’t know what would change to allow a primary to win the vote. Dye wrote in a text message, “I honestly try to stay out of the wrangling and make my decision on what I think is best. (People kind of quit calling me and sending me Robo-texts after a while, thankfully!) ”
She confirmed that she will vote for a primary on Saturday. “After chairing the ad hoc committee last summer, I feel strongly that we put ourselves in a very vulnerable position by attempting to run an unassembled convention for a statewide nominating process.”
The pro-primary wing of the SCC has been almost completely silent publicly. Ginsburg said they ignored his efforts to reach across the divide.
Leaders of the group are RPV Vice-Chair Kristi Way, Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson Jeff Ryer, and Young Republican Federation of Virginia President Thomas Turner. The Virginia Star requested comment from Way, Ryer, Turner, and many of the SCC members who voted against the party plan amendment, and only received comment from Walker and Dye.
Ginsburg said, “They’re able to cobble together just enough people that the clear expressed will of the majority is being thwarted. And rather than sit back and say, ‘Okay let’s negotiate this,’ they’re simply holding this process up and hoping someone blinks. That’s really the strategy that they seem to be implemented.”
Ginsburg doesn’t expect any new results at the upcoming SCC meeting. He said, “We’ve reached a point where both sides are a little bit dug in. I don’t know that anything different will happen.”
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