Two attempts to force the Virginia GOP to reconsider its decision to hold a convention failed this week, the latest scene in the ongoing drama among the party’s leadership.
The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) has voted to hold a nominating convention. Because the SCC can’t muster the three-fourths approval needed to declare an unassembled convention, it is stuck with a default in-person convention. The SCC has spent months rehashing the decision in formal Zoom meetings and private discussions.
A minority of the party has lobbied for a state-run primary and tried to bypass Chairman Rich Anderson by calling a SCC meeting on Saturday, before a February 23 state deadline to call for a primary. But on Thursday, Anderson said in a letter that the meeting call was invalid. On Friday, the Richmond Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit by Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) against the RPV, where she asked the court to issue an emergency injunction before February 23 to block the RPV from choosing a convention.
“I feel like the real losers today were Virginia voters who want input into their next governor,” Chase told The Virginia Star. “If the case was actually heard, we would have actually won.”
Chase’s case included an argument that a convention was currently illegal under Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders, and as a result, the lack of clarity over the nomination decision was harming her as a candidate. In January, Anderson warned that the RPV was on a path to having its candidates chosen by the SCC; Chase argued that eventuality would harm candidates and voters. However, the judge ruled that she didn’t have standing since it wasn’t her executive orders that would be violated, Chase said.
“I don’t agree with that at all,” Chase said.
She said the RPV’s decision harmed candidates and voters, not just Northam. But Chase said that the lawsuit has raised the profile of the issue, and she and her supporters will be lobbying the SCC to change its mind until the February 23 deadline for a primary.
Anderson Blocks Bypass Attempt
Citing RPV rules that allow one-third of the SCC to call meetings, the pro-primary faction of the SCC called for a meeting Saturday, where they planned to discuss a canvass as a possible compromise to a convention. However, on Thursday, Anderson published a letter citing a parliamentary rule and argued that since the SCC is still technically in session, the call for a meeting was improper. Anderson said he sought advice from national GOP officials.
“The guidance I received was that a new meeting may not be called while the SCC is already in session (by virtue of having adjourned our January 23 meeting to continue our discussions at a future meeting). For that reason, I conclude that the call for a February 20 meeting is not properly before the SCC. I don’t make this decision lightly because I respect all views and know this question is a contentious one, which is why I wanted outside and independent advice,” he wrote.
Anderson said he would call an SCC meeting soon, but that he was waiting for the outcome of the Friday hearing and the results of meetings between individual groups of the SCC. Neither Anderson nor RPV spokesman John March returned a request for comment Friday.
“After tonight’s meeting and tomorrow’s hearing, I will be best positioned to provide you with a comprehensive update on both matters. Armed with those data points, I will also include my views on how we will proceed,” he said in his Thursday letter.
Anderson has avoided voting for either side, but has publicly stated that the party needs to move forward with a convention. “As State Party Chair, I now find myself at a place where I have been instructed by the SCC through four successive votes—across three meetings and over a two-month period—that we will proceed with a convention,” he said in a January letter.
SCC member Nancy Dye, who supports a primary, said she hadn’t heard what would happen next, and was keeping her Saturday afternoon schedule open in case there was a meeting. SCC member Willie Deutsch, who supports a convention, said there would be no meeting on Saturday, and that calls for a canvass wouldn’t get majority support. It’s unclear what will happen among SCC members after the primary deadline passes that will cause the pro-primary minority to allow an unassembled convention.
Deutsch was optimistic, although he didn’t elaborate. “We have a plan to approve when Rich calls the meeting,” he said.
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