The Republican Party of Virginia is again trying to figure how to nominate its statewide candidates after concluding that a one-site drive-in convention at Liberty University is not feasible.
“The convergence of as many as 4,000 automobiles and 70 buses at a single venue makes that impossible,” Rich Anderson, chairman of the state GOP, wrote to Republican officials Friday.
Anderson says he will hold yet another meeting of the Republican State Central Committee — the party’s leadership group — next week to renew discussion of earlier proposals for a convention that features satellite voting around the state.
Holding such an “unassembled convention” would require a change in the party’s rules. That would require a 75% vote from the State Central Committee.
The committee, split between convention backers and supporters of a primary, has not reached that level in previous attempts. Party officials say it now appears more likely given that the deadline to choose a state primary has passed and the proposed May 8 convention is just about two months away.
While Democratic candidates campaign ahead of a June statewide primary, bitterly divided factions of the state GOP leadership have sparred since early December over how to pick the party’s state nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Backers of a convention have repeatedly come out on top in narrow votes despite the warnings of primary supporters that a gathering of hundreds or thousands of Republicans could violate Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Republican leaders voted Feb. 23 to hold a drive-in convention at Liberty University in Lynchburg to nominate statewide candidates, but the university said the next day that it had not yet agreed to host.
“To be frank, I and most Republicans are fatigued by this process,” Anderson wrote Friday. “It is now time to put this process behind us, focus on our forthcoming convention and get behind three winning candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
“That’s what Republicans across Virginia want us to do. Let’s do it.”
Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, unsuccessfully sued the state GOP last month in an effort to have a judge declare the party’s plans for a convention illegal. She has argued that if the party cannot work out its process, the State Central Committee could wind up picking the party’s statewide nominees.
Another GOP candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, former co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, also has expressed exasperation over the party’s inability to settle how to pick its candidates.
Chase adopted a low-key tone on Friday, writing on Facebook: “As of today, the details for the 2021 Republican Party Convention are still to be determined. It appears there is an effort underway to have multiple voting locations across the state instead of just one location in Lynchburg.”
The Democratic Governors Association piled on Friday. Spokesperson Christina Amestoy said in a statement: “At this point, the Virginia Republican Party might as well have their chaotic and controversial convention at a landfill.”
In other GOP news, four of the party’s candidates for governor took part Thursday in a virtual forum organized by the New Mission PAC of Daniel Gade, the party’s 2020 nominee for U.S. Senate. The PAC seeks to inform voters on issues related to the armed services and help veterans who are running for office.
At one point during the forum, former House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a retired government teacher who has served in the House for 31 years, held forth on education policy.
Cox finished up by talking about his work on “transfer grants” that help incentivize college course work in high-demand fields.
Youngkin said Cox is “a true expert” in the field and that if Youngkin becomes governor, he would like to have Cox as his secretary of education.
Youngkin’s gambit drew a smile from Cox.