On Saturday more shots were fired in the ongoing battle between the pro-primary minority and pro-convention majority factions of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC). Over one-third of the 72 SCC members called for a meeting to vote on a party canvass this Saturday, February 20. By banding together to issue the call, the minority bypasses Chairman Rich Anderson, who had called for a meeting February 27, four days after a deadline to call for a state-run primary to nominate the party’s candidates for 2021.
In the call, the SCC members, led by RPV Vice-Chair Kristi Way, said they recognized they were taking an “extraordinary” step.
“We are, however in an extraordinary situation,” members said in the meeting call.
On January 25, Anderson warned that as a result of the pro-primary faction refusing to allow an unassembled convention and the pro-convention faction refusing to allow a primary, the party was on a path to having the SCC members select the nominees.
“We believe it would be disastrous for the SCC to nominate our candidates and we remain firmly opposed to that outcome,” the members wrote. “In order to end this impasse, we have made the first move and are willing to ‘meet in the middle’ by supporting a Party Canvass.”
A canvass, also called a firehouse primary, is a party-run process where Republican voters go to specific locations to cast their votes; unlike a convention, voters do not have to be delegates to participate. Unlike a state-run primary, in a canvass (and a convention), the cash-strapped RPV will have to expend resources to staff and operate the voting locations. However, the party retains control of the process. Additionally, a canvass can still use ranked-choice voting, a bonus for those who fear gubernatorial candidate Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) would easily win in a majority-wins primary.
“Most importantly, selecting a Canvass now would give the candidates seeking our nominations something they do not currently have: certainty,” the call states. “Providing our candidates — and our voters — certainty in the nomination process must be accomplished as quickly as possible. It is our duty to provide that certainty.”
The call comes days after Chase announced that she was suing the RPV over the nomination controversy. “How will Republicans win in November if candidates don’t even know the details of the nomination process? Clearly, many welcome the standoff. It means they, members of the SCC will choose the Republican nominees; and apparently, they’re okay with that. I am not; and neither should you [be],” Chase said when she announced her lawsuit last week.
It’s unclear how many votes will flip on Saturday during the vote on a canvass. The majority has consistently voted against a primary, but the pro-primary minority has blocked holding an unassembled convention, since amending party documents to allow the convention to be unassembled requires a three-fourths vote. Previously, the pro-primary faction has received 30 votes. 31 SCC members signed the call for Saturday’s vote on a canvass, a slight increase, but not a majority in the 72-person body.
“In the interest of unity and the spirit of compromise, we have agreed to support a Canvass,” the 31 SCC members wrote. “At Saturday’s meeting, we will move for a Canvass as the method of nomination. We hope you will join us in supporting that motion.”
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