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To Be or Not To Be a Republican Should Never Be This Complicated

I am honestly very tired of writing about issues with my local New Kent GOP unit, and the sadly predictable 1st Congressional District Committee. But as I write, I realize it’s not just a one unit or one committee problem [1]. Even in these unusual and difficult days of COVID-19, these committees should be able to accomplish regular tasks correctly, transparently, and without manipulation.

Until that day dawns, I suppose I’ll just remain tired. But it’s more than that; more than tired. I am a process girl, so when the process is being, or can easily be, manipulated, I can’t ignore it.

All of these units are composed of many wonderful, hardworking people who care, in addition to the people who want to participate but feel they are purposely shut out for whatever reason that usually boils down to personality.

So in a genuine effort to show my concerns are not limited to my local committee, I’ll give what I hope is a totally unneeded caution before I explain my local issues. The possibility that this could actually happen on purpose is unreal to me, so it warrants mention. I should have put it together in my head long ago, but I didn’t.

Under the State Party Plan (SPP), there is a provision that could be used to totally subvert the will of party members, with or without the newly adopted COVID temporary amendment. However, the new Article XII [2] could make it easier. Part of Article XII has a provision for the “Unassembled Convention.”  Basically, it could be a canvass on wheels if it’s done right. Back on April 20, I did a story [3] explaining how I believe this could be a good alternative and run smoothly.

However, if a committee’s objective is anything other than a fair transparent process, there is room in the Plan for the ultimate manipulation.

“A state judge in Richmond on April 21 ordered the Virginia Department of Elections to extend, from June 9 to July 28, the deadline for Republican committees in numerous Virginia congressional districts to have their nominees in place.”

In an effort to raise awareness, and/or make it obvious if anyone attempts it … let’s play …. What Not to Do! This is a completely hypothetical example, using only a ruling from the judge in any of the districts impacted by the courts decision. [4]

Say there is a congressional district that has more than one person seeking the Republican nomination. The district committee meets electronically and makes arrangements for a standard (everyone packed in a room for a whole Saturday) convention on July 23. What happens if the district is still unable to hold that standard convention due to any restrictions from COVID-19?

The District Committee takes a vote and picks the Republican Congressional nominee … all by itself. No delegate votes, all those mass meetings (electronic or otherwise) out the window.

How is this even possible? Using a quirk in the Plan during COVID-19. I am not making any accusations. I pointed it out to prevent it. The amount of digital ink I will waste on any committee that attempts to disenfranchise delegates in this way will be immeasurable. If you want one harmonic Elephant Clan … don’t even try it … please and thank you.

Onward … back home.

In New Kent, members are basically told (on a Facebook post and within at least one email) not to regard anything as true or relevant unless the information is sent to them by the official committee. But what are they to believe when their leaders send contradictory and/or biased, and/or bullshit inflammatory information?

This question has been sitting in the back of my mind for a while, and as I was writing this story, I was forwarded one email that was wrong on so many different levels that it set a new low. That email and the circumstances around it are not the subject of this post, but I wanted to mention it as a place keeper because it will be included in the follow up to it, and that story is also part of the 2020 New Kent Republican Committee election activities.

In past bi-annual cycles, the New Kent unit issued a Call for a mass meeting, as the method of re-organizational activities. A mass meeting does not require pre-registration and allows for any registered voter in that locality that ascribes to the principles of the Republican Party to participate. Therefore, a mass meeting is a more inclusive process. And New Kent doesn’t attach the same level of “the others” voting in their processes … in a county as red, or Elephant Clan friendly, as we are.

Every four years, the process is a “Quad” that also includes nomination and election activities from the unit level to the Quadrennial State Convention, and 2020 is a Quad year. The unit meetings are the first step in a federal election season where the end result includes sending the Virginia delegation to the National RNC Convention where the nomination of a candidate for President of the United States is held. These activities are really very important when viewed from this lens, and that process begins at the unit level.

However, this year the local New Kent unit decided to complicate the process by choosing a convention as the method for reorganization. Only one other unit has ever done this because at this stage in the overall process, it’s a waste of time and money … unless….

A convention requires pre-registration to be allowed to participate. I think in some units pre-registration is used by unit leadership to cherry-pick the individuals that can vote, and find a reason to exclude those people who might vote against them. It provides an easy way to limit the number of participants in order to influence the outcome. This process is unusual for local unit reorganization … so much so that the RPV State Party Plan does not even have a unit level convention Model Call in the appendix.

I emailed NKCRC Chairman Mark Daniel to ask him a couple of questions (in bold below) about why the unit opted for a complicated process at this stage, and to provide him the opportunity to comment on the process. He wrote:

“As we face the uncertainty of mandates from a Governor, who changes our election dates and  process, In hopes that our State Party leadership would find its voice and the courage to oppose him, we continue to do all we can .We hope  to ensure a process that is the most inclusive and efficient for our members. As events change, we try to adapt  following the given advice of our Leadership, General Council, and State Party Plan.”

Why, given the additional burdens and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, did you decide to hold a Convention rather than the usual Mass Meeting?

Mr. Daniel: “Our planning began in January, before the Governors action to usurp our rights. We did not know how many to prepare for.

As a mass meeting allows registration up until the start of the event, And there are few Places in New Kent, that could potentially hold so large a crowd. A Convention, allows for mandatory Pre filing.

With this information, you can know the number of lanyards, ballots, etc., and have an accurate number to obtain the venue, insurance, etc. We felt this was the best way , to serve our members , an Responsibly prepare for and include the maximum number of participants.”

With all of the existing resources (such as the model calls in the SPP) and the people in New Kent who have the requisite knowledge and experience, why did you feel it was necessary to seek advice from Ms. Stefl and Mr. Wright to compose a Call to Convention?

Mr. Daniel: “We formed a committee, to develop a timeline, for the proposed event, and sought out the advice of the leaders of the 1st District, the State Party and general Counsel. We began with the given State Party Template, and sought input from any who would help, this included other unit chairs, 1st District Chair Bob Watson, State Central committee members Heather Stefl and Russ Wright, and General Council Chris Marston”

Save a point and a question, I will leave it to you to draw from these answers what you will as you go through the rest of this part of the story. Language is always important; I’ll wonder if you will believe Chairman Daniel has made my point for me.

In addition, on April 30, the NKCRC voted to have Mr. Wright serve as the temporary convention chair and Ms. Stefl to serve as temporary secretary to the New Kent convention. Neither of them are New Kent residents, so they aren’t unit members, but both are seeking election to the RPV State Central Committee.

There is no shortage of people in New Kent who could serve in those roles, and under the rules these two positions are reserved for the delegates to choose at the convention. They are not selected by the committee, even under Article XII, but anyway….

Prior to the February 11, 2020, NKCRC committee meeting, the unit members were emailed a draft convention call, and on February 11 they voted to approve version “R4” of the Call to Convention. I am not going into all of the issues with this call, at this time.

For the purposes of this story, the only issue that matters is the fact that the posted call wasn’t approved by the committee and the call that was approved did not include any valid method by which delegates could be elected.

But this version “R4” did actually include something that was procedurally correct, and is very important.

“Registration shall begin at 5:30 P.M. and shall end at 6:45 P.M. or when the convention is called to order. However, anyone in line at that time who has pre-filed and paid the appropriate fees will be allowed to register and participate as a full delegate in the convention.”

Straight out of Article I, as it should be. But this was about to change … to be undone. In point of fact, the entire call was about to change.

Under the requirements of the RPV State Party Plan, after a call is approved by a committee, it is required to be posted on the RPV website and (with one exception) published in a newspaper. The intent of this is to encourage maximum participation. These requirements are mandatory and without them, a call … isn’t a call, at all.

This is where this process went off the rails.

There was a call published on the RPV website. However, it wasn’t the call the committee approved, but rather version “R9.” One of the many interesting things about version R9 is that it was written on February 22 at 4:01 PM … 11 days AFTER the committee approved “R4.”  The number of New Kent committee memberships changed from 96 to 275, previously forgotten mass meeting information was added … and …

… then there is this:

“Registration shall begin at 5:30 P.M. and shall end at 6:45 P.M. However, anyone in line at 6:45 P.M. who has been notified that they have been elected as a Delegate and who has paid the appropriate fees will be allowed to register and participate as a full Delegate in the convention.”

This little difference makes all the difference in the world. Under Article I of the SPP, the requirements to participate in all RPV activities are spelled out very clearly. One must only:

  1. Be a registered voter (in New Kent, in this case)
  2. Be in accord with the principals of the Republican Party
  3. Be willing to sign a statement, if requested, that says you’re in accord and you intend to support all the nominees in the ensuing election
  4. If you voted in a Democratic Primary, be willing to renounce that affiliation or affiliation with any other party

The filing forms that you fill out and send with any necessary fees include #2-4 above, leaving your registration status as the only thing to be confirmed. But I would wager 99.9% of people who participate at this stage know they are registered to vote. I attached a printed copy of my SBE registration status to my pre-file form … to help save them some time.

So, what possible reason would there be to modify the language of the paragraph above? The answer to this question is, I believe, the largest problem facing the RPV… a desire to maintain control … no matter what.

For the 2020 process in New Kent, 156 individuals submitted pre-file forms, on or before March 20, 2020, as required by published Call version “R9” and in accord with the Plan.

On March 23, an official New Kent Republican Party Facebook post stated in part:

“All who filed in accordance with the Call and Filing Form, and who are certified by the Convention Credentials Committee are elected as Delegates…”

But wait….

On March 31, a similar post stated in part:

“…Last night, the executive committee received and approved the preliminary report of the credentials committee of the applicants meeting the minimum requirements to be Delegates. All those who successfully did so, will be notified by post card to addresses given, or email….”

On April 30, the Credentials Committee (and the other convention committees) was actually formed, and yet another Call, version “R10a” [5] was discussed, but not voted on or approved by the committee during the meeting, despite Secretary Miller’s last-minute mention of it. The audio can be heard here. Skip the first 13 or so minutes unless you want to listen to roll call.

Included in R10a is the following language in the still present Mass Meeting section:

“In the event the number of persons in a Magisterial District who pre-file as candidates for Delegate to the 2020 Convention is equal to or less than the total number of Delegates allowed from the Magisterial District, all candidates will be deemed to be elected and the Mass Meeting will not be held. No slating is allowed.”

Shall be deemed elected, R10a went back to right, it seems … in one place.

On May 6, I received the following email from Mr. Tom Miller … the secretary:

Dear NCKRC Convention filer,

I write to congratulate you, in successfully pre-filing to participate in the NKCRC election activities of the spring of 2020

The next event we expect to initiate is an electronic meeting of the NKCRC, to approve the recommendations of the Convention Committees.  After this we will notify those that filed who meet the requirements to be Delegates…

Today is May 18, 2020. I have not seen another email telling any of the three people in this house anything, yet they have no possible legitimate reason to prevent us from serving as delegates. And why would they want to try to keep people out? A big tent? Okay … here is their chance to prove it.

Whew. This is why, at this stage, units have mass meetings, just like the New Kent unit has ALWAYS held in the past. It would have saved time, energy, money, and most importantly, trust in the unit leadership outside of those members who only believe whatever they’re told by that leadership.

On March 31, they already had the delegate list. They know it. On April 30, they still knew it. There was nothing else to do except email the delegates, as they did on May 6, minus the, “After this….”  If all 156 individuals who filed are included in the activities they filed for, that would be one good thing. We’ll see. But that is also a part of this saga that remains to be told, as I mentioned in the beginning. Stay tuned.

Until then, I will continue to be disappointed, if totally not shocked, as I watch manipulation reign supreme … as I watch District committees ignore their own rules, and as I watch people complicate what isn’t complicated.

And I will remain ever optimistic that someday the bullshit will just stop because it’s not necessary and it is damaging the party. As unpleasant as all of it is, it is a story that needs to be told until there is no story to tell. In some places, Republicans need to clean up their committee’s house. They know who they are. Just as sunlight kills a virus, it will disinfect this too, but only if the people demand it from those in charge.