The Virginia House passed Delegate Dan Helmer’s (D-Fairfax) HB 2020 on Monday. The bill bans political parties from nominating statewide candidates using methods that would exclude active-duty military, students, and people sick with contagious diseases.
Republican political campaign consultant Brian Kirwin told The Virginia Star that HB 2020 was an anti-convention bill. “It is and it’s outrageous. Government shouldn’t interfere in the processes that political parties use to choose their nominees,” he said.
But Helmer said the goal was not to ban any specific process.
In January, he told The Star, “HB 2020 does not prohibit any type of process, including conventions and caucuses. It just ensures that they are accessible to our troops on the frontlines as well as students, people with disabilities, and those who may be sick with a highly contagious illness.”
The bill passed with 54 Democrats voting for the bill and all 45 House Republicans voting against the bill. Delegate David Bulova (D-Fairfax) also voted against the bill. The bill now goes before the Senate for approval.
“All this bill does is ensure that a soldier in a foxhole in Afghanistan has an opportunity to participate in party nominating processes. We think every member of the General Assembly should be able to get behind ensuring our service members are able to participate in selecting their nominee,” Helmer said.
Kirwin said all nominating methods disenfranchise some voters, even state-run primaries.
“Every method of nomination disenfranchises voters. If the political parties have primaries on the same day, citizens are disenfranchised from voting in both of them,” he said.
The bill exempts parties from the restriction during special elections. Kirwin said, “The bill itself says disenfranchising voters is okay if it’s a special election.”
In addition to conventions, the practical result of the bill may also ban other party-run processes, including having the State Central Committee select nominees as threatened by Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) Chair Rich Anderson. The bill comes after months of RPV warring over the 2021 nomination method. By contrast, the Democratic Party of Virginia normally opts for state-run primaries.
“This doesn’t totally rule out conventions, but mostly it does,” former chair of the Republican Party of Norfolk Pam Brown said in January when the bill was introduced. She said she supported the bill.
Brown said, “Some people may look at this as bad but honestly, I’m tired of spending my time dealing with conventions because it’s such a huge effort.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dan Helmer” by Dan Helmer. Background Photo “House of Delegates” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.