UPDATE: Mike Thomas Responds on GOP Primary

Following up on Russ Moulton’s concerns about RPV State Central possibly selecting a primary over a convention, RPV Vice-Chairman Mike Thomas has responded in kind:

Dear Fellow Member of the State Central Committee:

I am writing to lay out for you why I believe we should adopt a Primary as the method by which to nominate our candidate for the United States Senate in 2012. The case for doing so is compelling, and we stand to lose an opportunity to bring hundreds of thousands of conservative and pro-family activists into the party by adopting a process that includes them, rather than one that shuts them out.

Many of my friends have been surprised by my position on this. Indeed, this will be the first time in my approximately 27 years as a member of the State Central Committee that I have not voted for a convention, other than when our candidate was an incumbent (and we had no choice) or when we had a presumptive nominee, as with Jerry Kilgore in 2005.

Virtually all of you know of my strong support over the last three years for seeking approval to re-instate delegate registration fees so that a State convention is a viable choice for us to have. And, I have talked with many of you personally about why I hope we adopt this amendment at our meeting on Saturday.

Further, most of you will not be surprised to know that I made sure notice of the consideration of our nominating process was included in the call, even though the Party Plan doesn’t require notice for such a decision and no notice was given before the adoption of the 2009 convention.

Now for the reasons we ought to choose a Primary for our 2012 Senate nomination:

1. We are in an extraordinary time in our country’s modern history. In the last 18 months, hundreds of thousands of concerned Virginians have been waking up to what is going on in this country. They were roused to get involved in the political process, to attend Town Hall meetings, run for office or support other candidates, get others to register to vote, form a local organization or join an existing one, and get out to vote in huge numbers. This activism is only going to increase over the next two years.

Our largest two State conventions ever, in 1994 and 1993, had approximately 14,000 and 12,000 delegates respectively. Compare that to the roughly 6,000 delegates who showed up to the 2009 convention, or the less than 3,000 who voted to nominate our U.S. Senate candidate in 2008.

Think about it. In the very year that we want most to engage new and/or re-energized conservative votersa and Tea Party activists, we can either adopt a process that will invite 300,000 – 400,000 or more conservatives to participate, or we can keep our familiar, comfortable – and exclusive – convention process that shuts out hundreds of thousands of conservative voters and Tea Party activists.

I not only think that it is wrong politically to shut out the vast majority of the grassroots activists who should have a chance to vote on our nominee, but it is also wrong to intentionally adopt a process so that just a few party leaders can control the outcome.

I have very good friends who would support a convention no matter what, because it is what they are most comfortable with. And, for intra-party business, I think it is most appropriate. But, the fact is that we will grow as a conservative party only by bringing in more activists, not by trying to keep as many people out of our nomination process as possible.

2. Not only is a Primary desirable for the reasons stated above, it is also necessary if we actually want to win in the general election. It seems clear that the only way that President Obama can win re-election is if he carries Virginia’s 13 Electoral Votes. To do that, the Democrats will pull out all the stops to get their base out to the polls on Electon Day. They will be devoting as many, if not more, resources to Virginia than they did in 2008 to make that happen.

If we are going to win, we must begin early to engage not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands of conservative voters and build enthusiam on a scale that just is not possible with a convention.

And we don’t want to just carry Virginia for our Presidential candidate. We want and need to win this Senate seat. If we are serious about re-capturing the Senate seat, we can’t presume that these conservative voters will sit by patiently while party insiders decide what’s best for them.

3. As much as you and I may see it as our duty to participate no matter what process is chosen, the fact is that most Virginians who want to participate just can’t come to a convention, even if there is no required registration fee.

Some of my dearest friends from church, among the most conservative people that I know, can’t come to a convention because they own their own business or simply can’t be away from their young children. As I have been thinking through where we need to head in the future, it occured to me that some of our strongest allies, those whom we count on in November, just can’t participate in a convention process. Among them:

Active Duty Servicemen and Servicewomen

Older Republicans whose are not physically able to come to a convention

Thousands of small business owners, especially sole proprietors

Republicans for whom Saturdays are the Sabbath

Thousands of familes with young children (some can participate in a convention, but most just cannot)

Hundreds, if not thousands, of law enforcement officers whose rotation falls on a Saturday

It was when I considered just how many people we leave out by having a closed process that I began to think seriously about supporting a Primary.

4. Other attractive options are just too far down the road. Every member of State Central knows how long I pushed, with the help of many others, to change our Party Plan to allow an option for a statewide Party Canvass. I truly believe that a Party Canvass will become the prefered method of nomination in a few years.

We are in the beginning stages of developing the calls and rules that will be necessary to conduct one. Optimistically, this is likely a 6 – 8 month process, and realistically may take longer. We need to do it right and get buy-in from Republicans accross Virginia before we adopt them. If we don’t, it is highly unlikely that the State Central Committee would ever vote to nominate a statewide candidate using that process. Once all of this work is completed, we will have to submit these calls and rules to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. As much as I would like to tell you something different, it is hard to see how a Party Canvass will be realistic before 2014.

This has been a long note and I will add other points separately. But, I do want to wrap it up with one additional thought.

A few of my friends have suggested that we should wait until sometime next year to make this decision. I disagree. We only have a choice between a Primary and a Convention.

If we are to nominate by convention, then we will need to secure the venue soon. Delaying a decision only increases the chance that we will end up without a venue, and thus it will be a moot point to even discuss having a convention. (And, if we choose not to nominate our candidate in a convention, we will have numerous sites across the Commonwealth to choose from for electing our State Chairman, National Committee members, Elector and At-Large Delegates to the National COnvention in 2012.)

On the other hand, if we adopt a Primary, why would we not want to give prospective candidates the extra months to begin building their campaigns, activating thousands of volunteers who can also be mobilized to help elect our legislative, Constitutional and local candidates in 2011?

Finally, the longer we wait to make this decision, the more likely that the decision will be based not upon what is good for the cause, but what is good for one candidate or another. We always say we don’t want to make a decision based on candidates’ preferences for a nomination method, then we turn right around and wait until it’s too late to do anything but. If we wait, we will again be in that same position.

In the end, however, we need to adopt a Primary now because it is the right thing for our Party and for the advancement of our shared conservative principles.

As always, I look forward to seeing you this weekend and sincerely appreciate your consideration.

You are the best!

Mike Thomas

RPV’s State Central Committee will be making a decision on a primary vs. convention at its November 20th meeting.

  • An excellent summary of the reasons for supporting a primary, and even more persuasive coming from Mike Thomas.

  • reston libertarian

    I’m generally in favor of a convention over a primary, but certainly acknowledge the substantial benefits of the primary. I agree with Mr. Thomas, that the RPV is heading towards a viable, useful and effective canvass system that will retain most, but not all of the benefits of both the caucus and the primary system.

    The real problem with a primary in 2012 for the Senate seat is that it will coincide with the presidential primary. The democrats will not have an active race in either the presidential or (likely) senate race. This leaves non-republican voters who desire to make a statement with no outlet but to vote in the republican presidential primary, thereby limiting their senate primary votes to the republican side as well.

    Essentially Republicans and their periodic, or new sympathizers should be selecting the Republican nominee for senate. The convention allows selection by those pledging to support the party. The primary in 2012 will be heavily influenced by those who care little for the outcome of the primary, and those who seek to manipulate the primary process.

    The major benefit to the party of holding a primary is voter identification. People who are likely to vote, and likely to vote for a particular candidate can be identified from the lists made available to candidates and committees from the SBE. As there is no party registration in VA these lists are generally invaluable in identifying the base for turnout. Unfortunately, with uncontested presidential and senate elections on the Democrat side in 2012 the lists from the 2012 Republican Primary will be tainted with false positives (democrats and independents) resulting in wasted and imprecise use of political resources in targeting these false positives as “hard R’s.”

    Delegates to conventions are selected at the local level. Perhaps there can be more competition and interest at the local party level for delegate positions resulting in convention delegates that represent the wishes of those who can not make the trip to the state convention . . .

  • kelley in virginia

    the primary brings local Republicans out to work for their candidate. and then (hopefully) these Republicans will all come together to support the nominee. Meanwhile, the convention only brings together a very small percentage of those same people.

    and it has not been my experience that there are many out to “game” the outcome.

  • Samuel Gilleran

    reston libertarian:

    At this point, I expect both Democratic nominations to be contested. Jim Webb isn’t raising the money you would expect an incumbent running for reelection to raise, and I expect to see a Carter-Kennedy 1980 type nomination fight. So we won’t have to worry about bleedover.

    I guess I’m still torn about the idea of having a Presidential Primary, a Senate/HoR Primary, and a Convention. That’s a lot of voting.

  • Mr. Thomas makes a persuasive case for primaries, which I support for both parties. And while I have witnessed people from the other side voting in the opposite’s primaries, I’ve yet to see anything other than anecdotal evidence that it has an effect.

  • Kudos to Mike Thomas. He gets it. The founders intent was for the voice of the people to be heard through their elected representatives. Primaries offer the general public the rights they are due and conventions force nominees on them. We need good candidates that fill the tent with wide cross section.. Conventions merely cast a net that misses many potential voters that have not yet or may never make the transition to understanding the favorable value proposition that conservative leadership can offer.

    +1 Mr. Thomas

  • Bryan Stuart

    Wait? During the 2nd District GOP Primary, “TURBO” railed against how “party insiders” picked the nominee.

    Now he wants a primary?

    Get some consistency man

  • Steve Vaughan

    Both sides worry about “cross over” voters gaming their primaries. No one has ever pointed to a primary in Virginia where the result can be attributed to “cross over” voting. Some folks, on both sides, do it. It’s not enough to make a difference.
    A primary is an open process for picking a nominee, a convention, particularly one with the high candidate and delegate filing fees that have been suggested, is a very closed process.
    Open is better than closed.

  • James “turbo” Cohen

    Hey Brian, The Primary was rigged, the fix was in and “leadership” gave preferential treatment to their their candidate and embellished with endorsements. Their choice got white glove treatment reserved for favorites and the info that was thoeretically made available to other campaign was only offered to their choice. The electio is over so I am no longer harping on Scott.. he is not my representative and I need him to succeed. The issue is with the establishment apparatus and the behind the scenes preferential support by party apparatus that in theory stands behind the candidate who the people choose to rtepresent them AFTER the people vote.

  • Additionally, I am holding some elements of the Tea Party “establishment” responsible for tolerating the actions of Byler and with all due respect I hope they find unity in the future and resist endorsing any one candidate that does not pass muster with conservatives.

  • But would the Senate primary occur at the same time as the presidential primary? It isn’t set up that way right now. Current law specifies presidential primaries are held the second Tue. in Feb. while other offices for Nov. are nominated in June primaries.

    That law will have to change (the Feb. primaries) due to a new RNC rule that would strip VA of delegates if it held its primary before March 1.

    If they can get the senate primary to coincide with the presidential primary, then that would be a different scenario. If they can’t, we’d have TWO primaries PLUS one convention to deal with.

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