So why a convention in 2021?
As we have seen, for more than a decade the convention/primary argument is business as usual at the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV). Late last year, however, there was a glimmer of hope that, given a new outbreak of COVID, the clock ticking on a nomination method, and the large Biden win in Virginia, that common sense would prevail. Virginians would be able to vote in a primary for their choice of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General.
This was not to be.
The showdown with the State Central Committee (SCC) of the Republican Party of Virginia began in the waning months of 2020 and lasted for weeks into early 2021 in public online meetings now referred to with terms like “Silly Season,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Goat Rope” on social media. In a year when electing Republicans is considered a crisis of policy alone in Virginia, no such real considerations were reflected in the proceedings on either side.
The common school of thought behind these doings is that it began with an unusual move by a group within the body, when pro-convention members joined a few pro-primary members in an effort to make it harder for Senator Amanda Chase to capture the nomination for Governor. They came together in a strange alliance, and supported a convention along with an interesting tool called “Ranked Choice Voting.” Why, might you ask, and what is Ranked Choice Voting? More about this and Senator Chase later.
Rumors also had it that former lieutenant governor candidate Pete Snyder had friends on State Central who sought to help him repeat his near successful bid in 2013 with a convention in 2021, this time with the hope he would be successful for Governor. In the Washington Post  on April 4, 2021, Laura Vozella covered this aspect in detail.
The traditional primary folks on the other hand, who also have ironically been no friends to Amanda Chase, fought hard for a primary in a series of meetings using COVID as the defining element, and the belief the Governor would shut any attempted convention down.
Convention folks fought back and at one point, a state convention site at a completely unaware Liberty University was unofficially booked, and then un-booked for an outdoor unassembled convention, which was not legal at that point in the Republican Party Plan.
Imagine a drive-in voting type scenario with 14,000 cars. Throughout the proceedings, SCC members seemed nonplussed by movements not legal in the party plan, as well as a constant contempt for Roberts Rules of Order, with a make-it-up-as-you-go-along scenario. With less than a month before the filing deadline for a nomination method at the State Board of Elections (SBE), the story was that these things could all be remedied later.
Liberty University was gracious, but less than impressed, with being drawn into the fray. Had this been successful, you as a potential delegate would have had such a fun “Mother’s Day” Saturday, May 8. Imagine the honor of driving hours to the site and sitting in your car for more hours to vote.
Apparently the alternative, a primary and arriving at your regular polling place and casting a vote for your candidate in a few minutes, and spending the rest of the day with your family, pales in comparison.
To attend the convention, you might even have had to shell out money for a hotel room depending on where you live in the Commonwealth. Estimated cost for some with food, gas and overnight stay, could be upwards of $300.00.
Both sides on SCC went at each other personally using parliamentary procedures, some legal and some not so legal, to overcome the approaching deadlines with the Virginia State Board of Elections to their own advantage. The Virginia GOP aired it’s dirty linen in public for months, finally deciding on a convention in 37 locations by Districts. It was a win for the convention folks, if you can call it a win.
As the primary side went down like a lead balloon over those weeks, it sought to take the unit chairs throughout Virginia, who had no part in the nonsense, down with them. While things were up in the air at one point, localities were faced with coming up with plans for over 125 units to create their own voting locations in a hopeless imitation of a primary. This would have opened them up to all kinds of exposure, not only from COVID, but from candidates and citizens alike crying foul in the proceedings.
Can you imagine local unit chairs, while setting up the local fire hall for convention voting, explaining to the number of people arriving after being bombarded with ads to vote May 8 (and who have never heard of a delegate form or deadline) that they cannot vote?
What a great way to grow your committee. Tell people they missed the deadline after all that has been written about voter fraud of late and explain six months of infighting at RPV. Really? When GOP county chairmen asked who would bear the expense of the hundred-plus locations, they were told that no one had thought about that yet, nor had they considered the party plan amendments it would take to make it remotely legal.
By the Grace of God that “idea” was killed in favor of the 37 locations with at least the Districts bearing the burden, but not without a further myriad of issues.
To date, since so much has been written publicly about this issue, citizens not signed up as delegates are still seeking a primary date or any method by which they can participate. This movement is being fueled by the candidates themselves who don’t fully understand the process, especially the convoluted way it was finally structured.
In my neighborhood, campaign staff for candidate Glenn Youngkin clearly told folks they must sign this form to participate in a “primary.” My neighbor recently called to tell me RPV was at her door asking her to sign forms or she would not be able to vote. It took me an hour to explain RPV was not at her door. As deadlines close rapidly now, committee chairs have been literally bombarded with questions. Even a savvy activist with convention experience would be confused about the following.
The Universal Delegate Form
By far the worst process attempted by the primary side was the creation of a centralized delegate registration and a “voting online proposal” usurping the authority of the local committees. One size fits all, right? We are all NOVA and Virginia Beach and we all have HUGE committees with unlimited resources. Everyone has internet and would certainly trust the voting process online in 2021 Virginia.
Although that failed, the universal filing form stuck which continues to create the largest problem of mass confusion and the biggest issue in disenfranchising voters. Could either side possibly have made it harder to participate?
What normally happens is each individual county committee issues a set of instructions referred to as a “call,” specific to the county and a filing form of their own which is placed on RPV’s website. Citizens go to that place to receive instruction on how to file locally.
This year, however, they never get there. The universal filing form dominates and once you click, the link takes you to the email address of the chairman. Nothing in “calls” dictate emailing a chairman for instructions, and some of the names on the chair list are long gone. There are also no assurances when they check those emails. All of the questions asked by folks (dozens of inquiries have come here) could be solved by simply being directed to read their county call.
We are told the Party Plan was developed with the thought of local governance in mind as county committees best know their locality, a familiar Republican mantra. The disaster of the universal filing form, which has potential delegates searching furiously on their voter cards for their “unit” which they assume is a number but, rather, is an inside term used in a convention setting for the name of the county, belies all this.
In 2021 committees, the work horses of the party were not considered. After this, as many chairmen have mentioned, why have committees at all? Accomplish it all online or … have a primary.
Ironically, everything suggested by both sides seems to have been a help for candidate Chase who hasn’t missed a beat, and is corralling delegates with zero dollars spent while some of her competition have spent upwards of $2 million. Don’t buy reports of her early demise as they are, shall we say, greatly exaggerated.
Never was the disconnect between a governing body on both sides of an issue and the public larger and more evident than what took place at State Central – classic bureaucracy with no connection to real citizens or what happens on the ground, especially in rural Virginia. The one-size-fits-all approach is truly killing the Virginia GOP, and making decisions exclusively for the heavily populated cities continues to spell failure.
Dear State Central,
Your sleeping giant, partially or fully awakened by Donald Trump but not all made up of fanatical devotees of the former president, is NOT in NOVA. The middle all over Virginia is yours for the taking if only you will wake up and smell the roses and offer them something that is relevant to their everyday lives including bearing the standard for inclusion in choosing nominees. In addition, the suburbs are not all lost if you will pay attention to trends, numbers, and the Virginia of 2021. Why, in the first nomination season post-Trump, would you NOT be gathering data via a PRIMARY?
As conservatives flee cities (I could have sold my house and lots ten times last year to Richmond residents), they land in places like rural Caroline where taxes are still low and the county just happens to have an I-95 exchange running through its western corner. Caroline, a formerly blue county, is headed to R+10 trending against the norm.
They are also landing in King George County, a traditionally red county true, but an influx of numbers is never a bad thing. House sales in Hanover are going gangbusters with properties on the market for less than a day. Let’s set ego and control aside and consider data.
So to recap, what we have now is a pseudo convention, kind of like a primary with unlimited delegates and huge expenses for the Republican Party of Virginia. You can participate if you figure out where RPV’s filing form goes and return it in time. Each of the 37 locations is allowed $1000, but expenses of security, signage, and logistic apparatus such as cones and other methods of parking lot and crowd control will run far more than that.
The maneuvering in the end for whatever purpose, to help or hurt candidate X, Y, or Z, does not seem to be working.
Newcomer Glenn Youngkin’s army of young attractive folks in matching shirts coming to a door near you belies the idea that this is slam dunk for Chase or Snyder. The problem remains there was no incubation by a strategic team (what SCC should be) of viable candidates, and no long-term plan to showcase the same starting two or more years ago. Fixing your problem after the fact is never a good solution.
Stay tuned for Chapter Three – “The Cast of Characters,” where I will introduce our candidates.