(RPV Chairman Rich Anderson)

by Brandon Jarvis

The Republican Party of Virginia’s (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) rejected multiple motions Tuesday night that would have changed the party’s nomination process for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General from a convention. Instead, they approved holding a convention on May 8 at Liberty University where delegates will park and vote from their vehicles.

This comes after more than half of the committee repeatedly supported changing the nomination process due to COVID-19 concerns, but failed to reach the 75 threshold needed to amend it.

The Convention Call, which is the document that presides over the process, that was approved Tuesday night designates Liberty University as the single location for the convention. It also states that ranked-choice voting will be used – this is when voters rank their favorite candidates in the case that one candidate does not meet the threshold to win on the first ballot. 

“What you are proposing is illegal,” Levin Turner said as the committee debated the Convention Call. “Not only are you putting the party in jeopardy, but you are also putting the people who attend this illegal function in jeopardy.” 

Turner was referencing the COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings that Governor Ralph Northam ordered to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“All of these different things we are speculating – a lot of things can happen – we can’t predict the future,” Mike Ginsberg, a proponent of the Convention Call responded. “We are not going to stop progress. We have made a decision. If something happens, we can make a change.” 

When probed by a member, Anderson said he was unable to provide guidance as to what would happen if the assembled convention is unable to take place. The committee’s counsel was also unable to respond. 

The committee has been stuck with a convention since they voted in favor of it at a December 5 meeting. But with COVID-19 restrictions making it highly difficult for an in-person convention to take place, committee members have been working to try and amend the plan and change it to either an unassembled convention or a primary election. They failed every time due to the 75% threshold needed to amend the plan.

Noticing the impasse and predicament ahead of the party, RPV Chairman Rich Anderson recently warned that this stalemate might leave the executive committee with no other option than to choose the nominee themselves. “I don’t wish to employ this method,” he said.

In an effort to prevent that, Anderson recently wrote in a letter to committee members that he worked with both sides prior to Tuesday’s meeting in an attempt to find a compromise. 

That work was unsuccessful.

The committee first killed an amendment on Tuesday that would have allowed the committee to hold an unassembled convention similar to what they did in 2020.

The members also killed a motion to use a party canvass to choose the candidate.

In the days leading up to the meeting, a faction of the committee that initially supported a primary was instead pushing for a party canvass, a voting method that closely resembles a primary. It differs because instead of being run by the Commonwealth, canvasses are run by the local units of the Republican Party and GOP officials have more control over who can participate. Voters show up and receive credentialing and verification in a way that is similar to a convention, but their votes would not be weighted and there would be polling locations across Virginia.

The unique advantage that the canvass supporters had was the fact that a canvass is already included in the party plan, so it only required a simple majority of the committee member’s support for approval. 

Former Republican Governors Bob McDonnell, George Allen, and James Gilmore III noted that advantage in a letter they sent to Rich Anderson, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, and the rest of the SCC members urging them to support a canvass. “Given the current gubernatorial executive order in place, which could be further extended by this Governor, a large statewide convention will likely not be permissible in June in government restricted Virginia,” the former Governors wrote. “We strongly urge you to put aside differences tonight and select a canvass, which has been successfully used many times previously by our party. It would not require an amendment to the party plan, pre-registration or mass meetings, nor does it limit the number of Republicans who can participate in the nominating process.” 

But that still wasn’t enough to convince a majority of the committee to support the measure.

The statistical gubernatorial frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination Amanda Chase tweeted directly at the committee after the members voted against amending the plan. “I would like the VA GOP State Central Committee to answer a question. 1,962,430 voters voted for President Trump in Virginia. How are you going to accommodate these people who will want to cast a vote for our statewide candidates?”

Pete Snyder’s campaign stated that they will be prepared to compete for the nomination with the rules that the committee eventually sets. The campaign for Glenn Youngkin declined to comment and the campaign for Kirk Cox did not respond to requests for comment. 

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