The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) failed to resolve the question of how to nominate its candidates on Saturday, leaving GOP statewide candidates in limbo.
SCC Members voted again to approve a convention, making it contingent on if an amendment for governing rules for an unassembled convention passed, based on Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The amendment passed with a 41-30 majority but with less than the three-fourths approval required by Party rules.
The SCC then voted to table the issue until a future meeting, tentatively planned for next Saturday, and then voted to adjourn without considering other business.
The result is that technically, an in-person convention is still the nomination method planned by the RPV for 2021, which is illegal under the current COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia. The SCC is now in a standoff between those who want to continue with an unassembled convention and a minority of the party who want to change the decision to a primary.
Several SCC members told The Virginia Star that those holding out for a primary hoped to gain it by not approving convention rules. The convention nomination method was passed by the SCC on December 6 by a 42-30 majority.
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After a month of backlash to the vote to hold a nominating convention instead of a primary, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) will revisit the decision on Saturday. If the convention is re-confirmed, the SCC will also vote on whether or not to hold an unassembled convention. An unassembled convention was promised during the vote for a convention, but formalizing the unassembled feature requires a separate vote.
“It requires a 75 percent [vote] to make the formal modifications to the party plan to allow us to have an unassembled convention,” 11th District State Central Committee Member Mike Ginsburg said on The Johnn Fredericks Show.
Ginsburg said, “That’s really kind of the hook that’s allowed for [revisiting the convention decision.] Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be able to consider this, but for the fact that we have to make a formal modification to the State Central Committee party plan to have an unassembled convention to deal with the pandemic. And so that has sort of been the hook whereby this debate has come back up.”
“I want predictability and do not want to rehash things,” RPV Chair Rich Anderson said on The John Fredericks Show. “But that said, this was proposed by one of our members and it got on the agenda. It was proposed by the Vice Chairman [Kristi Way,] I’m sure in consultation with others, and I’m not going to play the role of agenda cop where I create a perspective out there that I blockade items.”
Anderson said he didn’t think there were enough votes to flip the decision.
After the SCC voted in December to hold a convention, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) announced she would run as an independent, claiming that conventions allow the party to manipulate results. Chase would perform well in a primary featuring multiple candidates, since her committed base can give her the nomination with less than 30 percent of the vote. However, Chase is also expected to perform well in a convention, which tend to favor hard-line candidates. As a result, switching to a primary may be good for some other campaigns, notably those who do not have local name recognition.
Chase’s announced decision to run as an independent threatened to split the GOP general election gubernatorial vote.
At the same time, someone waged a guerilla campaign of anonymous robocalls and text messages targeting SCC members who had voted for convention. Eventually, Chase announced that she would run in the convention as a Republican but continued calling for the SCC to reconsider and choose a primary.
As the news cycle moved on, campaigns began gearing up for a convention. The new vote has broken open some of the still-healing scabs in the RPV, and high-level state party officials are openly taking opposite sides of the issue.
RPV Communications Consultant John March told The Virginia Star, “This isn’t a story. It isn’t good practice to make conflict where there is none. RPV caves to no one and it’s disingenuous to pursue that angle.”
“If the SCC member wants to discuss something, there’s two options. Either [Anderson] can be a dictator and say ‘No,’ or, we’re the Republican party,” March said. “If they want to discuss something, we discuss it. We discuss it at the State Central meeting.”
In a statement emailed to The Star, Republican National Committeewoman for Virginia Patti Lyman blasted the plan to rehash the decision.
“A decided majority of SCC voted for a convention, not once but twice, during our December 5 eight hour meeting. A faction on the losing side of those votes – for reasons of personal financial gain and/or pure political avarice and/or something else – plans to deliberately hold hostage our RPV nominating convention by refusing to vote for the Party Plan Amendment required for us to hold the convention SAFELY in an unassembled fashion as we did in August 2020,” Lyman said.
She continued, “Their goal is to figuratively hold a gun to the heads of SCC members to make us choose only between a currently illegal assembled convention or the primary they failed to fairly win. This stunt comes on the heels of unknown primary supporters subjecting pro-convention SCC members to a systematic telephone harassment/physical threat bullying campaign to flip our votes to primary through much of the holiday season.”
She concluded, “This is an insult to our potential nominees who trusted us when we voted on December 5, and it is appalling and embarrassing that this faction is getting special treatment from RPV by inviting them to publicly relitigate this critical issue.”
March said, “Everybody’s got a conspiracy theory about the SCC, and none of them turn out to be true.”
John Fredericks is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Virginia Star.
He is also a Trump 2020 delegate and the chairman of the Trump Virginia Delegation.