by Brandon Jarvis

The State Central Committee for the Republican Party of Virginia met on Saturday to choose a nomination process for the statewide races next year. They will be nominating candidates to run for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General ahead of the 2021 general election. Many people involved in politics believe that this will be the best chance the Republicans have had at a statewide win since 2009.

Experts have stated in recent weeks that in order for the Republicans to be competitive again in Virginia, they need to nominate a candidate that can play well across the entire commonwealth. “There will be Republicans who are angry about Biden’s victory and they will be motivated to work for a Republican candidate in 2021,” said Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, Professor and Director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, in an interview in November. “If there will be enough Republicans to win an election depends to a great degree on the candidate selected.”

Nearly six hours after the meeting began the committee officially chose a convention as the nomination method, leaving the logistics of the process to be finalized at a later date.

Amanda Chase, the far-right Senator from Chesterfield stated multiple times prior to the meeting that she would run as an independent if the committee chose a convention. “As many of you know I’ve said I will fully seek the Republican nomination for Governor in a primary only,” Chase posted on Facebook the morning of the convention. “If a political consultant controlled party convention is chosen I will run as an Independent. I made this announcement publicly back in February when I announced my run for Governor.”

After the committee voted in favor of the convention, Chase quickly followed through with her threat and declared that she will be running as an Independent. “It’s official. While I am a Republican; I will be seeking the nomination in a primary as an Independent,” she said in another Facebook post.

Chase running as an Independent and splitting the conservative vote would wreck any chance that the Republicans have of winning the gubernatorial race next November.

Party leaders that are focused on winning have realized this.

Delegate Kirk Cox, the only other declared candidate seeking the GOP nomination, addressed Chase directly with his comments after the committee meeting. “Amanda Chase’s antics have long grown more than tiresome. Her threat to run as an independent is based solely on the fact that she knows principled, conservative Republicans will never tolerate the demagogue she has become,” Cox said in a statement on Saturday. “She could participate in this nomination contest, but instead she will fade from relevance as loyal Republicans continue to focus on putting our conservative principles to work solving the challenges people face daily in this Commonwealth under weak and misguided Democratic rule.”

Republican party strategists are upset as well, making accusations against other potential candidates while ultimately blaming the committee for “solidifying the downfall of Republicans in Virginia.”

One GOP strategist laid out how easy it will be for the Democrats to use an Independent run by Chase to their advantage. “Here is what is going to happen now:” said the strategist. “The Democratic Governors Association is going to spend $200-300 thousand to ensure Amanda Chase makes it on the ballot. They’ll spend $1 million on ads to the GOP base saying Amanda is the real conservative to split the GOP vote and save themselves multiple millions more that they can spend on other gubernatorial races across the country.”

On Sunday night, a website domain registered as “rescuerpv.com” appeared with a message on the homepage accusing the committee members of disenfranchising Republican voters. RPV is an abbreviation for the Republican Party of Virginia, the party apparatus that the State Central Committee resides within. “Republican Party insiders in Virginia have taken away your voice once again,” says the homepage of the website. “On Saturday 12/5/20, throwing caution to the wind, the [Republican Party of Virginia] establishment decided to ban Republicans from the primary. The establishment didn’t want to hear from you, they want to choose our Statewide nominees at an in-person convention where they set the rules and the Party elite votes.”

The organizers have listed the names of each person on the committee who voted in favor of the convention, labeling them “RPV Establishment.” The site also lists the names of the committee members who voted in favor of a primary, labeling them “RPV Grassroots Champions.” The organizers of the website have not identified themselves in any form. The Chase campaign has not responded to questions about the extent of their knowledge of the creation of this website.

While analysts and party strategists agree that Chase and her far-right rhetoric would likely lose by a large margin in the general election, the consensus on the Republican candidate that would be able to win is still out. Multiple potential-candidates are preparing to enter the race. The list includes Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkinn, two wealthy Republicans who have never actually held elected office. Both would be well-funded candidates in a primary election with finance and fundraising backgrounds. A convention, however, with party insiders deciding on the nominee is a tougher feat for outsiders to conquer.

This bodes well for Cox, who has been a Delegate in the General Assembly for three decades, as well as Speaker of the House from 2018-2020. “I know I am the best candidate to bring our party together to win in 2021,” said Cox in a statement Saturday night. “I have a proven conservative track record, the willingness to fight back against unchecked one-party Democratic control, a vision for how to lead forward, and the ability to win. Even as a conservative, I hold the bluest seat of any Republican in the General Assembly because I know how to bring people together.” 

Down-ballot Republican candidates, who could experience some trickle-down effects from a split-ticket at the top of the ballot, are taking a softer approach to the convention decision. “I look forward to running in a party-run nomination for Attorney General next year,” said Virginia Beach Delegate Jason Miyares, who recently launched his campaign to become Virginia’s next Attorney General. “With this vote, the Republican Party of Virginia launches a 2021 cycle where Republicans are fired up to fight back against progressive one-party rule in Richmond. My campaign is focused on bringing conservative leadership back to Richmond for a safe and secure Commonwealth.”

Delegate Tim Hugo from Centreville, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, echoed the sentiments of Miyares by focusing on defeating the Democrats. “I look forward to running in the RPV convention for the office of Lieutenant Governor,” said Hugo in a statement on Saturday night. “Our campaign is working hard to build a statewide operation that will not only win us the nomination, but also defeat the Democrats next November. In the months ahead, we will be taking our conservative message to Republican voters in every corner of our Commonwealth.”

Chase tried to use her popularity within the base of the party to force the committee to either vote her way or risk ruining their chances in the general election. The committee chose to stand up to Chase and her demands, which could turn out to be the best thing to happen to their party, if not the worst.

“We the People should NEVER have to PAY TO VOTE,” Chase said in a Facebook post late Sunday night. “I cannot in good conscience participate in a method of nomination that disenfranchises so many Virginians from being able to conveniently vote at their local polling precinct. I am still a Republican but I will now run as an independent to allow ALL Virginians to vote.”


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