Monday, June 18, 2012

Virginia GOP Chooses State Convention Over a Primary in 2013

The Republican Party of Virginia made some interesting changes over the weekend. The party's state central committee chose to hold a convention in 2013 rather than a primary election- for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling
It is no secret that the VA GOP has a little feud on its hands, and this primary/convention situation is a major event in that feud. As mentioned before on this blog current Lt. Gov Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are competing for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. (It's just a little awkward inside the party right now.)

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
Bolling prefers a primary. Cuccinelli prefers a convention.

What's the difference and why does it matter?

Anyone can vote in a primary. Only party members who attend the convention get to vote at the convention.

A primary means a candidate gets to go out, glad hand, handshake, and stump. (They also cost a whole lot more to campaign.)

A convention means schmoozing the delegates with voting power at the convention.

And guess what happened at the convention over the weekend? The committee voted 47-31 to rescind an October 2011 decision to have a primary and to instead go with the option that gives them the most power.

Funny how that happens.

Bolling issued the following in a statement after the vote, "[a convention] will effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Virginia Republicans, and all active-duty military personnel, from participating in the nomination of our candidates."

"If we want to grow our party, we have to involve more people in the nomination of our candidates, not fewer; and I believe that we do that through primaries, not party conventions. This decision creates the impression that our party is an exclusive party, as opposed to an inclusive party, and that is not the message we should be sending to the people of Virginia."

Something else interesting happened at the convention. There wasn't a visible feud. I was in attendance for the Friday night proceedings, and asked a few people why I didn't see the Bolling campaign everywhere. (Because heaven knows, I saw plenty of Cuccinelli, and everyone else.) The answer was hush-hush, but people very respectfully explained that the two men do not want to divide the party, and therefore are giving each other some space. Cuccinelli got Friday night, and supposedly Bolling got Saturday. (I was not there Saturday so I did not get to witness it.) Rather than directly compete and the second and third highest ranking GOPers in the state, they politely stay out of each other's ways. I appreciate that.
So why does Cuccinelli prefer a convention over a primary? He says it is because it will allow the Republican nominee to save money for the general election campaign. That is very true. A bloody battle in the primary can be costly. Just ask Romney, Newt, and Santorum.

Supporters of the convention method claim it is a return to “grassroots activism.” For this writer, that is both true and untrue. First, if grassroots want to get more active, it doesn't matter which method of voting is held, they will get active. What really happens is what we see taking place around the country with Ron Paul supporters hijacking wreaking havoc showing up and causing a stir at state conventions around the country. You get a small, but passionate, group of people to show up at your local district convention to carry your torch.

Some call this grassroots activism, I call it not the will of the people, but the will of the loudest people.

Why does this method help Cuccinelli? He's got the Tea Party support.

The downside to this method? It's not unlike what happens in a grand jury indictment. They can indict anyone they want. A group of people get together and all agree the blue chair in the corner is bad, in spite of the evidence. They indict it. Or, in political terms, a bunch of Ron Paul rowdies show up and get their guy on the ballot, in spite of what the majority of people really want.

And for the candidates not running against Cuccinelli and Bolling for governor, (for instance Morgan Griffith running for U.S. House) that can be a scary prospect. One minute you are uncontested and all is well, the next a bunch of rowdies from who-knows-where show up with some buddies, and someone else gets the job!

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