The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) voted 37 to 31 to issue a call for an in-person drive-in-style nominating convention to be held at Liberty University (LU) on May 8 at 9 a.m. Before passing that vote, the SCC voted against changing party rules to allow an unassembled convention, and voted against holding a canvass.
The nearly four-hour-long Tuesday evening Zoom meeting hit the same notes of exasperation as previous SCC Zoom meetings and again highlighted a sharp divide between the pro-convention faction, led in the meeting by Mike Ginsburg, and the pro-primary faction, led in the meeting by Jeff Ryer.
After killing an effort to hold a Saturday meeting, Chairman Rich Anderson (pictured above) called for the Tuesday evening meeting to be held the same day as the state deadline to hold a primary. The date of the meeting also coincided with passage in the Senate of HB 2020, which could effectively ban conventions after January 1, 2024.
“The call right now that is before us is a call to move forward with what has been voted on numerous times by this board,” pro-convention SCC member Willie Deutsch explained in the meeting. “Liberty University has over 25,000 parking spots that they’re willing to let us utilize for a one-location drive-in convention.” Deutsch said speeches could be given over FM radio, and said that SCC members had already been having preliminary discussions with LU officials.
He said, “The people would be able to stay in their cars, to participate safely, successfully in one location, and we could have the convention that we often do but with the safe distance that is needed for a single location convention to work in this new COVID world.”
Some members asked if that format was legal under party rules — is a convention held in multiple parking lots really an assembled convention? Others suggested that the format could still run afoul of Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders — are delegates in cars in a parking lot legally considered a gathering? SCC parliamentarian Chris Marston said he would research the issue.
Elizabeth Lankford suggested a convention could suppress voter participation from Tangiers Island.
Lankford asked, “Can you explain to me logistically how Lynchburg is going to be able to handle my voters from Tangiers that only have boats? They don’t actually have cars. They do have gators [utility vehicles] and golf carts on the island, but when you leave the island, they actually don’t have cars. So is there a dock site nearby, and then would the RPV be prepared to provide transportation from the nearest dock site?”
She added, “I’d invite all you pro-convention people to come on over. We’re a beautiful place, lots of vacation land. I’d love to have you come over here so you can understand why having a primary or a canvass is the best option and not expecting us all to go to Lynchburg for that price.”
“Had we done an unassembled convention we might be able to do a more convenient location,” Ginsburg replied. “When you get down to a one location convention, there are only so many locations you have.”
He said, “The only [change] between this convention and other conventions is the fact that this one, people are going to be sitting in their cars rather than in the Richmond Coliseum.”
Lankford replied, “People on Tangiers don’t have cars.”
Later, Ginsburg said that questions about on-site logistics regarding technology and multiple parking structures were splitting hairs. “All of those things will be determined,” Ginsburg said. “I believe this is logistically feasible and something we’ve been able to do before and I’m confident we will be able to do that.”
“We’re trying to finally have you guys realize that what you are proposing is illegal,” SCC member Levin Turner said. He said that the convention could still violate Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders. “You are putting not only the party in jeopardy, you are putting the people that attend this illegal function in jeopardy.”
After the meeting, Anderson told The Virginia Star that he would now ramp up formation of committees to plan and execute the convention.
Anderson said, “This is the end game. An affirmative decision has been made to do a drive-through convention in one location.”
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