97th House District Convention Cancelled as Preparations Fall Apart, RPV and Campaigns Respond
Following a heated Wednesday meeting, the 97th House District Convention between Del. Chris Peace and Scott Wyatt has been cancelled and will not take place on Saturday. The Republican Party of Virginia has since removed the event from its official calendar.
Citing botched convention preparations which left Saturday’s event without a venue, the legislative district committee (LDC) opted instead to hold a canvass, also known as a firehouse primary, on June 1st, giving every voter enough time to prepare.
According to the committee, no venue had been secured as of three days before, despite Wyatt’s campaign being the point of contact with the Hanover County Public Schools.
The planned canvass is a party-run process in which all Republican voters are eligible to cast a ballot by bringing their ID and voter registration card to one of several party-run voting locations at any time during the day. Unlike a convention, the canvass does not require every delegate to show up and park at the same time. Alternates stripped of their ability to vote will be able to cast a ballot.
The final decision was made with a 75% majority vote of the committee, following several failed attempts to adjourn the meeting early, as well as numerous violations of party procedure called out by RPV’s executive Director John Findlay in a Wednesday night email obtained by Bearing Drift.
Third LDC Meeting Proves Most Contentious Yet
Just minutes into the meeting, LDC Chairman Tom Miller resisted efforts by the committee’s majority to appoint a parliamentarian charged with running the meeting smoothly, following extensive procedural lapses at earlier meetings.
“The chair rules that there will not be a parliamentarian tonight,” Miller said.
“I move to overrule the chair,” shot back John Hubbard, who continued asserting the parliamentarian. “This committee wants a parliamentarian, I think it’s necessary to proceed.”
By improperly ruling the majority’s motion for a parliamentarian out of order, the chairman set the stage for a disorderly process, compounded by him improperly adjourning the meeting, without a motion, for the second time in less than one week.
Hubbard then moved that the convention be canceled, the schools be notified, and a committee established to organize a party canvass on June 1.
“This is not the way I wanted it to end this time,” said Hubbard.
Miller again ruled the motion out of order, saying the committee had no power to cancel a nomination process under these circumstances.
“The mass meetings are things done that this committee has no power to undo,” he asserted.
The mass meetings referenced were held last month, themselves marred by hundreds of Republicans being denied the chance to vote.
As the arguing continued with occasional interjections from the audience, the 75% majority of the committee properly advanced motions to reconsider the chair’s actions, and hold him out of order, only for Miller to proclaim the votes invalid again.
“Robert’s Rules provides that when a chairman repeatedly ignores motions to either overturn, overrule, not recognize members who are speaking or making proper motions, then there is in order a motion to vacate the chair which only applies for the time of that meeting, and only applies while that meeting is in session,” noted Boyd Marcus, a parliamentarian and consultant with the Peace campaign.
“The motion’s out of order in accordance with the RPV plan of organization, to vacate the chair, even for one night,” Miller responded.
Hubbard then insisted the chairman could not disallow a vote on his ruling, and reasserted his call for a parliamentarian.
LDC member Mark Daniel made another unsuccessful motion to adjourn. Hubbard then reasserted his motion to call the question on cancelling the convention.
“It is not my first choice, but you have left me no choice,” he said.
Hubbard made one last effort to reassert control of the meeting, moving to suspend the rules, which Miller ruled out of order.
“Mr. Chair, you’re out of order,” Hubbard shot back.
After several more minutes of back and forth, Miller declared the meeting adjourned without motion, leaving with Daniels.
Shortly thereafter, the remaining two voting members finalized the motion to cancel the convention.
RPV Weighs in on the Process
Later that evening, RPV weighed in.
“I am extremely displeased with how the events in the 97th LDC have unfolded over the course of the last few weeks,” wrote RPV Chairman Jack Wilson, in an email to the party.
“Under the Party Plan, the Legislative District Committee, not the Chairman of the Committee, has jurisdiction over the Party nominating process in the 97th House of Delegates district.”
He reserved further judgement pending appeals review.
Hours later, RPV’s executive director John Findlay rejected Miller’s interpretation in a Wednesday night email to the First District Committee.
“Overruling the Chair does not require individuals to go through RPVs appeals process,” wrote Findlay. “It has happened on numerous occasions at several different levels of the Party. This is not controversial and Tom Miller has been informed of this fact repeatedly.”
“A Chairman can be temporarily removed from chairing a meeting through a suspension of the rules. It has happened in the past year in Augusta County when a previous Chairman blatantly ignored a Roberts and the Party Plan.”
Later that night, Wyatt announced his intention to hold an unauthorized convention, making no mention of whether the school would allow this with planning so disorganized at the late date.
“We believe the convention should and will be held this Saturday at Atlee High School,” Wyatt said in a news release, which also took aim at RPV Chairman Jack Wilson.
“The Chairman of our LDC has legal standing, has determined the convention should go on, so it will go on,” Wyatt continued. “We support Chairman Miller in that decision.”
The statement also pointed towards the First District Committee as what Wyatt said was the avenue of appeal.
Meanwhile, Peace’s campaign blasted Wyatt in a Thursday afternoon email.
“As you may have already seen, last evening the 97th District Legislative District Committee voted to cancel the convention for this Saturday due to gross incompetencies that have been discovered throughout the process due to the rigging and lack of planning on functional details by Scott Wyatt and his team of Tom Miller and Mark Daniel,” he wrote to his supporters.
“The 97th LDC Committee discovered that the school that was initially reserved in Scott Wyatt’s name under his personal campaign email address and as of this week, Wyatt remained the only name on the application. The Committee further discovered that Wyatt’s handpicked chair Tom Miller had allowed the process to go over budget, had failed to set up a bank account, and was accepting an illegal anonymous donation to cover costs. After the Legislative District Committee had prohibited Miller of making any contracts or spending money without their permission, the Committee found that he had continued to spend unauthorized money and make commitments without the required approvals.”
The Current Status of the Nomination
Saturday’s convention has been cancelled, as RPV noted following its review of the meeting with the party’s general counsel.
Wyatt’s campaign is expected to appeal, arguing that their impromptu “convention” should be accepted if Chairman Miller’s actions are ruled permissible, against the prior statements of the party’s chairman and executive director. The appeal will ultimately be decided by the State Central Committee, after a hearing in the First Congressional District.
In the meantime, the LDC has begun preparing for a June 1 party canvass, in which all Republicans will be allowed to vote, including those slated with a non-voting “alternate” status at a mass meeting.