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After months of fighting, Va. Republicans appear to have finalized nomination process

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Voting with GOP elephant

After months of arguing, the governing body of the Republican Party of Virginia agreed on Friday evening to nominate their statewide candidates this year using more than one voting location for a convention.

The compromise agreed to by factions on the party’s State Central Committee would allow the party to nominate its candidates on May 8 by allowing convention delegates to vote at about 37 sites spread out across the state. The general election is Nov. 2.

At issue for Friday’s meeting: The party had opted for a convention rather than a state-run primary to nominate candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. But because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, many Republicans feared that an in-person convention won’t be possible and that the State Central Committee would end up selecting nominees, instead of GOP voters.

The State Central Committee last month voted to approve a “drive-in convention” on the campus of Liberty University.

But the university said the next day that an agreement hadn’t been reached. And state GOP Chairman Rich Anderson said last week that bringing up to 4,000 automobiles and 70 buses to a single location isn’t possible.

So the committee agreed to a compromise on Friday, following lectures from former GOP governors as well as local party chairs calling on them to stop their bickering and show some leadership for a party that hasn’t won a statewide Virginia race since 2009.

Allowing remote voting locations for a convention is a compromise that many people worked on, said Nate Boyer, a member of the committee.

“This current plan, whatever imperfections it may have, serves the people that we represent — the base of our party — better than anything else that’s on the table,” he said.

Voting sites will be announced beginning on April 12 and will be finalized by April 24. Voting hours for delegates will last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 8.

After the committee essentially reached an agreement on Friday, the meeting veered into a bitter debate related to minutia over how people will file to become delegates. Some members denounced another member, prompting calls from Anderson and others for decorum and an end to the personal attacks during committee meetings.

“We have allowed ourselves to fall down a very bad path,” committee member Daniel Webb said of the attacks on the character of members.

Democrats have not been shy about mocking their opponents over the disarray.

“No matter how they decide to run their so-called ‘convention,’ the candidates are mired in a brutal, chaotic race to the far right,” said Manuel Bonder, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

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pwilson@timesdispatch.com; (804) 649-6061; Twitter: @patrickmwilson

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