Chris Peace Wins Decisive Victory in HD97 Firehouse Primary
With all ballots counted, Del. Chris Peace won a decisive victory in today’s Republican firehouse primary, securing 92.8% of the vote following a day of heavy turnout across the 97th District.
Peace’s challenger, Hanover Supervisor Scott Wyatt, did not fare well among Republicans at large, winning only 7.2% of the vote, including only 8.1% in his home county.
Despite months of controversy, Peace’s supporters seemedunfazed by the last-minute voter suppression tactics from his opponent, with many saying the long and often chaotic road to today only strengthened their resolve. Despite Wyatt’s best efforts, today’s vote went ahead as scheduled.
“It is humbling to have such overwhelming support from our district and I promise to continue fighting for this amazing district’s future and values,” said Chris Peace, in a statement. “Wherever this fight takes me, I will ensure that the voice of 97th District voters that was heard to today is fully respected and duly acknowledged – whether it is in a State Central Committee hearing or in the court system on their behalf.”
Peace said he intends to begin campaigning for November immediately, undeterred by the party appeals which lay ahead.
Wyatt maintains he won in a self-organized “convention” back in May, though that event had been officially cancelled by the party after it was left with no venue three days before voting. RPV Chairman Jack Wilson also confirmed Wyatt’s event to be unofficial. Only one-sixth as many voters attended that event as cast ballots today.
Official Totals from the LDC:
Hanover: Peace, 1153 votes (91.9%); Wyatt, 102 votes (8.1%)
King William: Peace, 321 votes (90.2%); Wyatt, 35 votes (9.8%)
New Kent: Peace, 797 votes (95.2%); Wyatt, 40 votes (4.8%)
Totals: Peace, 2271 votes (92.8%); Wyatt, 177 votes (7.2%)
Landslide Turnout Breaks Through Widespread Misinformation
Going into today, observers wondered whether weeks of misinformation — heavy at the end — would chill turnout.
It wouldn’t. When polling opened in Hanover, the line was wrapped around the building.
“I drove 3 hours round trip from vacation to vote for Christopher Killian Peace because he matters,” said Peace supporter Debbie Kast on social media. “He deeply and sincerely cares for the people of this district. Thank you for letting our voices be heard.”
Republican voter disenfranchisement emerged as the central issue in the race, following a number of controversial tactics from Wyatt’s campaign meant to limit the vote, and ultimately surpassing some of the legislative issues which dominated the early race and initially prompted Wyatt’s challenge.
Claims of voter suppression first emerged in January, after Wyatt, then a member of the LDC, used his own vote to select a convention for himself, and began planning it himself, figuring that lower voter turnout would increase his chances of victory, if voting on the nomination were limited to his core group of supporters.
Later, Wyatt’s allies would set Hanover’s convention filing threshold too low, against the advice of RPV, creating a deliberate shortage of voting spots, which were then preferentially given to his supporters at the unit’s mass meeting in April. Following the slating maneuver, over 350 Hanover Republicans were prohibited from voting, further inflaming the voter suppression controversy.
Slated voters didn’t forget losing their convention vote.
“So happy to finally vote after being designated as an alternate at the Hanover Mass Meeting,” wrote Peace supporter Denise Adams. “All votes matter!”
“It was great to finally get to vote after being slated off as an alternate,” added Mark Haskins.
The 97th’s Controversy Isn’t Over, Yet
Today’s results follow weeks of controversy over the nomination process, after a convention being planned by Scott Wyatt’s campaign fell apart at the last minute, leaving voters with nowhere to cast a ballot three days before voting was to begin. Ultimately, the Legislative District Committee (LDC) opted for a firehouse primary (canvass) in which all Republicans would be allowed to vote.
By all indications, the committee’s decision appears to be a success, with 2448 total ballots cast. Volunteer poll workers said they were shocked by the heavy turnout. By contrast, just over 400 voters showed up to Wyatt’s self-proclaimed “convention” — or, only about one-sixth as many as who voted today.
Although Peace has secured victory in the officially recognized nomination process, he still faces a challenging road ahead in resolving lingering controversies hanging over the nomination process. Over the coming weeks, his team will need to prepare for the eventual hearing before RPV’s State Central Committee, as well as potential legal action in court.
Already, the process has proven especially acrimonious within the party hierarchy, spawning numerous appeals and general counsel rulings which must be resolved in time.
RPV’s State Central Committee, which maintains final authority over appeals, is not scheduled to meet until June 22nd. Allies of Peace said they expect a vigorous fight ahead to defend today’s result against many of the same party officials who assisted Wyatt’s efforts to cancel the vote.
While Wyatt maintains many supporters on SCC, the results from voters today represent a powerful challenge to any party official who would seek to overturn Peace’s nomination on appeal.