Chris Marston during the last Republican State Central Committee meeting.
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Amanda Chase is calling foul play on one of her GOP opponents for employing a member of the Republican Party that has been instrumental in determining the nomination process. Chris Marston is the legal counsel and parliamentarian for the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), which also encompasses the group of people that make party decisions – the State Central Committee (SCC).
Marston often provides guidance to the committee as to what the rules of the party allow when making decisions. He has been helping the committee navigate through the three-month process of finalizing a nomination process. He is also the campaign compliance lawyer for one of the candidates participating in the nomination process – Pete Snyder.
While other members of the committee are employed by Snyder, they abstain from voting on matters that would cause a conflict of interest. But due to Martson’s unique role with the committee, he often has to address matters that might directly impact his candidate.
The SCC voted on December 5 to hold a nomination convention to choose statewide candidates. 10 days ago on Feb. 15, Marston sent a letter to the chairman of the RPV, Rich Anderson, making an official ruling on an important facet of the nomination process.
Marston said in the letter that Anderson requested his advice on what the party plan allows for the physical structure of the location where the nomination process takes place. This is a matter of concern due to COVID-19. “In identifying venues for nominating events and meetings during the present pandemic, the question of using facilities that may not have four walls and a roof has arisen,” Marston wrote in the letter.
This issue came up during the last SCC meeting on Tuesday when members asked if having convention delegates park in different parking lots at Liberty University would actually constitute an unassembled convention – a change that the SCC shot down five separate times over the last three months. One member noted that Liberty’s campus is one location, while another member responded by saying Virginia is one state.
In the letter on Feb 15, Marston determined that he does not believe it is necessary to have a wall and roof. “Based on the common definition of the term building, the intention of these provisions, and the prior use of facilities and structures that were not fully enclosed, I hold that, for purposes of the Party Plan, the term building means structure or facility and encompasses built structures that need not have walls and a roof, Marston wrote.
He then continued, “This letter constitutes a ruling or interpretation of the Party Plan. Pursuant to Article X, it may be appealed to the Executive Committee or directly to the State Central Committee within thirty days of the date it is posted on the RPV website.”
This ruling provides that a convention would still be possible in a manner that delegates would not have to all be indoors – a concern often floated by the faction of the committee that supported changing the nomination process to a primary or canvass.
Amanda Chase, the statistical frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination wants Marston to choose between the committee or campaign. “I call foul play,” she said in an interview Thursday. “This is a complete conflict of interest. Chris Marston needs to decide if he’s going to serve as a neutral arbiter and counsel for RPV or paid staff for a campaign for Governor. He cannot serve as both a referee and serve on a campaign team. This is a blatant conflict of interest.”
The committee decided Tuesday to uphold their decision to hold a convention. They approved a call to hold it in May at Liberty University, but possibly throwing another twist in this process, Liberty responded on Wednesday by saying that had not agreed to host the event.
Governor Ralph Northam recently loosened COVID-19 restrictions, which is a positive sign for RPV if they hope to pull off this convention in May.
The Snyder campaign has not responded to requests for comment. The campaigns for Kirk Cox and Glenn Youngkin did not comment when asked.
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