Republicans make last-minute push for support on eve of Virginia GOP convention

Capitol Connection

Audio: 8News talks with political analyst Rich Meagher about GOP convention

The Governor’s mansion, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied governor’s residence, is shown in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia Republicans running for statewide office are making their last-minute pleas to voters on the eve of the GOP convention. 

Candidates have traveled across the commonwealth to meet with convention delegates, some having well-known conservative voices stumping for them along the way. 

In the week leading up to Saturday’s nominating convention, Republicans competing for the party’s nomination in the governor’s race have ramped up their campaigning. 

Pete Snyder will make the final stop on his “conservative outlaw tour” in Roanoke on Friday night, with Oliver L. North, one of the key figures in the Iran-contra scandal and a former president of the National Rifle Association, as a special guest. 

Glenn Youngkin made campaign stops across the commonwealth this week with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a prominent Republican who sought the party’s nomination for president in 2016. 

LISTEN: 8News talks with political analyst Rich Meagher about Saturday’s GOP convention

Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), a former Virginia House speaker who has picked up endorsements from past governors and Republicans in the General Assembly, held a rally Thursday in Virginia Beach. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, the last Republican to win statewide office, joined Cox at the event

On Friday, Sergio de la Peña held an event at restaurant in Arlington to get support in Northern Virginia. De la Peña describes himself as a “Trump Republican,” who believes the American Dream is under attack from “socialists and Northern Virginia liberals.”

Another staunch supporter of the former president, Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), met with residents in Albemarle County on Thursday. Rich Meagher, a political science professor at Randolph-Macon College, believes any discussion about Republican politics, within the state or nationally, “begins and ends” with Trump.

Candidates have pitched similar priorities, focusing on election integrity and protecting gun rights, while blasting the legislative changes enacted under Democratic control as too progressive. While acknowledging strategies will have to change during the general election, Meagher said candidates have to target topics that party loyalists consider vital in order to compete in the convention.

“And so all of the candidates we’re seeing, and particularly in the governor race, but in all the races, I think are trying to hit these hot button issues in order to convince voters that they’re the right person for them to win over these really hardcore supporters,” he said in an interview. “At the same time, there’s a little bit of hedging, particularly among candidates who might consider themselves more moderate.”

With the Virginia GOP expecting results early next week and the primary on June 8, voters will know the Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general nearly a month before their Democratic rivals are nominated. 

Voting has already actually taken place, with early voting allowed from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday for those with religious obligations on the Sabbath. On Saturday, an unseen record number of convention delegates, more than 53,000 were certified by local party units, will submit their ballots at 39 sites scattered across Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.

The Republican Party of Virginia will use a “ranked-choice” voting system for Saturday’s “disassembled” convention where convention delegates will rank the candidates they support in order. Ballots will be taken to a ballroom in Richmond under the protection of security and will be counted on a livestream with supervision from the campaigns and off-duty police.

If no one reaches a majority vote, the candidate at the bottom of the pack will be eliminated and another round of counting will take place. Candidates will continue to be eliminated until one reaches a majority.

Meagher said while the race for attorney general may not take many rounds of voting, the other two races would likely require multiple candidates to be eliminated. He said the governor’s race will be tight and could take several rounds.

“It’s really hard to win a majority of votes, certainly, of people’s first choice. It’s almost guaranteed that we will go to multiple ballots in order to allocate the votes appropriately from the lower tier candidates up to the higher ones,” Meagher said Friday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we got to a fourth or fifth ballot.”

Voters will select Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in a June 8 primary.

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