A nominating convention in May will determine the Republican gubernatorial candidate who will seek to replace outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Virginia Republican Party leadership decided Friday after months of debate. Northam is term-limited and will therefore not be seeking reelection.
The convention will operate in a remote format, rather than through what is typically a large-scale event at one site, because of the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Delegates — which any Republican voter in Virginia is eligible to become through a signup process — will vote via ranked-choice voting on May 8 at one of up to 37 polling locations for the Republican nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
Arguments over whether to hold a primary or a convention had been ongoing for months, and though the party initially settled on a drive-in convention near Liberty University in Lynchburg, those plans were upended earlier this month after the party realized the logistical challenges of such an event were impossible to overcome.
Virginia GOP chair Richard Anderson conveyed exhaustion over the process in a public letter March 5 — just prior to last week’s final decision being made — writing, “To be frank, I and most Republicans are fatigued by this process. It is now time to put this business behind us.”
The conclusion to the drawn out and heated process perhaps came as a relief to the several Republican candidates who have been campaigning while uncertain of the nominating method. Top contenders include state Sen. Amanda Chase, businessman Pete Snyder, former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin, and former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox.
Some have speculated the convention option is undesirable for Chase, a Trump loyalist who has been outspoken against the process and could potentially benefit more from voter turnout in a primary scenario. Chase pressed about delegate forms on March 10 in a sign of anticipation, writing, “We need delegate forms before we can actually sign delegates up to vote. Time is ticking. You need to give ‘We the People’ plenty of time to sign up to be a delegate so they can participate in this May 8 Convention.”
Chase sued the Virginia GOP in February in an attempt to prevent a convention, arguing such an event would violate coronavirus restrictions. Her case was dismissed after a judge ruled it lacked standing, according to the Associated Press.
Youngkin’s campaign told Breitbart News it is optimistic about the Virginia GOP’s convention decision.
“We are very pleased that the party committee finally settled on this unassembled convention with voting locations across Virginia,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said, adding “nothing can stop Glenn’s energy, infrastructure, resources, or the grassroots enthusiasm we are seeing on the ground for an outsider, conservative, and business leader who can win.” The private equity businessman recently poured seven figures into jumpstarting a political action committee aimed at boosting Republican candidates in Virginia, a battleground that has shifted leftward in recent years.
Cox, for his part, expressed no issues with the convention. “This convention is all about nominating a Republican that can win in November. It’s been twelve years since our party won a statewide election, but we shouldn’t lose hope because more and more Virginia Republicans are showing up to get involved in the process,” Cox told Breitbart News. A longtime state politician, Cox said that because he currently holds a state House seat in “the bluest district of any Republican,” he gives the party “the best shot at victory in the general election.”
Snyder’s campaign likewise had no reservations about the convention. “Pete has been running as the conservative outsider who can win, no matter what the rules are,” Snyder spokeswoman Lenze Morris said in a statement to Breitbart News.
Snyder, a businessman who, similar to Youngkin, markets himself as a political outsider, has made restoring in-person learning at schools and saving small businesses central to his campaign message. Morris added, “Terry McAuliffe and the radical Democrats fear Pete because they know his winning message resonates with voters across the Commonwealth.”
McAuliffe, a well-funded Democrat candidate and Clinton ally, was governor of Virginia from 2014–2018 and became an immediate frontrunner for his party upon announcing his comeback bid in December.
Virginia’s constitution does not allow governors to hold successive terms but also does not restrict former governors from running again once they have been out of office.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.