30,000 Virginia Republicans voted in an unassembled convention on Saturday to determine their nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. So far, the party has only tabulated the results for attorney general — but the surprisingly close results from that race have left operatives and strategists spending Sunday night predicting what this will mean in the gubernatorial race.
What has happened so far:
After voting was finished at 4 p.m. on Saturday, the ballots were transferred by courier to the Marriott in Richmond to be counted in one room under the watchful eye of campaign observers with a camera live-streaming the process.
The ballot reconciliation process began on Sunday morning and went smoothly according to sources close to the process. The counting process began around 3 p.m. for the attorney general nomination.
After the first round, none of the candidates reached the 50.1% mark needed to win — meaning a second round takes place with the lowest performer, Chesterfield Supervisor Leslie Haley being removed from the ballot. Due to the rank choice method that was used, the next step was to redistribute Haley’s votes to their second choice options.
None of the three remaining candidates were able to reach 50.1% in the second round either, meaning the lowest performer, Jack White, was removed from the ballot and his voters were redistributed between state Del. Jason Miyares and Chuck Smith in the third and final round.
Prior to the convention, it appeared that Miyares, the more moderate candidate, was the front runner in this race for the nomination. But Chuck Smith, a candidate to the right of Miyares that aligns with firebrand state Senator Amanda Chase mail it a nail-biter until the end.
Eventually, Miyares narrowly prevailed in the third and final round — but Smith’s strong showing has some people convinced that Chase will perform strongly when they begin counting gubernatorial ballots at 9 a.m. Monday.
While recent polling shows that Virginia Republicans still have very high favorability ratings of Donald Trump, one Republican operative said that Chase and Smith were talking directly to the base making them strong candidates in the convention. This comes after Trump lost Virginia by 10 points last year.
“One thing we seemed to forget is that the Republican Party remains the party of Trump,” said Richard Meagher, a professor of political science at Randolph Macon College. “While the story coming out of Republican circles was that Miyares should cruise to victory, Chuck Smith was out there communicating to voters using the language of today’s GOP. Clearly, his message resonated.”
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