“Well we’re not,” said Susan Lascolette when Jim Herring tells her that some folks, in general, are not inclined to follow social distancing guidelines. Lascolette and Herring are both on the Republican committee in charge of Saturday’s nominating convention for the 7th congressional district. Lascolette is also on the Board of Supervisors in Goochland.
In a newly released audio recording of the conversation, Lascolette can be heard telling Herring that the park staff will not be enforcing or checking in on the event to ensure they are following social distancing protocols. “No, they have no intention,” said Lascolette.
More than 5,000 convention delegates are expected to pile into the Farm Bureau Exhibition Hall at Meadow Event Park in Doswell to cast their vote to choose the Republican that will face Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger this November.
This process was supposed to take place back in April, but due to restrictions on large gatherings from Governor Northam in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the convention was delayed until now.
The 5th congressional district completed a drive-thru convention last month with few complications as delegates stayed in their cars and dropped off a ballot. However, the committee in the 7th district has chosen to host an in-person, indoor vote.
The map laying out the building and the path that delegates will follow does not show any precautions for keeping the delegates socially distant from one another.
When talking about recommending social distance protocols and masks, “Everybody has to say that,” said a man in a second recording with Jim Herring. “I have almost never worn a mask – and I do have a mask that says this mask is as useless as my governor.”
The committee is recommending that delegates wear masks, however, they are not requiring it. “They have to do what they have to do for insurance purposes,” said the voice in the recording.
In the audio, Herring ponders about what people will say, specifically the Meadow Event Park staff, when they are not social distancing. “Obviously we are not social distancing,” said Herring. “But you’re also not 80-years-old,” said another voice.
Herring continued discussing the large turnout that will be present for the convention, but Sloan responded and said that the Meadow Event Park staff will not get involved. He followed up by saying no one from the convention committee will be enforcing social distancing protocols. “None of us obviously care,” said another voice on the recording.
Not everyone in the Republican Party shares this same sentiment. “Of course they don’t care about the health and safety of delegates,” said one Virginia GOP strategist. “They have never cared about health and safety.”
“There’s another name that could be used for this sort of decision: disenfranchisement,” said Shaun Kenney, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. “How many Republicans over the age of 40 or with pre-existing conditions just got told to stay home?”
The committee chairman, Ben Slone told the Scope that they have a “full health safety plan in place for the convention which addresses everything from proper distancing to HVAC controls.” However the words of the members on the committee do not reflect that.
Herring, and Lascolette have not returned requests for comments. Neither has Jack Wilson, the current chairman of the Virginia Republican Party.
** An earlier version of this article identified Ben Slone as the second voice in the second video. While multiple people identified it as his voice, the voices do get jumbled up, and Slone told the Scope it is not him. We are choosing to now identify that voice without a name.
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