RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s last three Republican governors believe the GOP State Central Committee should choose a party canvass, also referred to as a “firehouse primary,” as the method to select 2021 nominees, writing in a letter to members Tuesday that the panel’s inability to pick a final process “has been disheartening.”
Members previously voted against a state-run primary and for a convention but the coronavirus pandemic could make a statewide convention difficult.
Former Virginia Govs. George F. Allen, James S. Gilmore and Robert F. McDonnell, detailed their concerns with the lack of a final decision in their letter addressed to RPV Chairman Rich Anderson and members of the committee.
“In addition to the unwanted public attention on this issue, it has handicapped our talented pool of statewide candidates from effectively implementing their campaign strategies,” they wrote. “We need to nominate our very best candidates to fight for our principles in what will be a tough fall election cycle for our team.”
Citing an executive order from Gov. Ralph Northam (D) limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, the former GOP governors urge committee members to “put aside differences tonight and select a canvass.” They explain that the method has worked well for the party in the past.
“It would not require an amendment to the party plan, pre-registration or mass meetings, nor does it limit the number of Republicans who can participate in the nominating process,” they wrote. “It also screens out Democrat participation through signing a pledge, and very importantly, allows for ranked choice voting that is permitted by the party plan.”
According to the party’s handbook, a canvass works like a primary but is instead run “by the appropriate Unit or Legislative District Committee of the Party.” In a canvass, voters cast their ballots only once, there are no rounds of voting like a convention, and they are held over a period of several hours on one day. They can be held at one or multiple locations.
Republican gubernatorial contender Amanda Chase’s legal effort against the Virginia GOP to force a statewide primary was denied by a Richmond judge last week. The lawsuit sought an injunction, arguing that possibly having 5,000 to 10,000 delegates “under one roof” violates gathering restrictions imposed by Northam in response to the global pandemic.
Update: Hours after this story was published, the Republican State Central Committee agreed to approve a plan to hold a statewide convention in Lynchburg. The GOP proposal calls for a “drive-in convention” where delegates remain in their cars in tens of thousands of parking spots at the university.
A Liberty spokesperson wrote in an email Wednesday: Don’t run with the “facts” out there. They’re incorrect.