Va. GOP prepares for nomination convention on Saturday
54K delegates to choose statewide candidates
On Saturday, roughly 54,000 Virginia Republican convention delegates will have the opportunity to choose their party’s 2021 nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Unlike the typical “firehouse convention,” currently prohibited due to COVID-19 precautions, the state GOP has opted for an “unassembled convention” with 39 voting locations open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and delegates will vote in ranked order — picking their top choice, followed by second, third and so on. This means the candidate with the lowest number of votes at the end of each round of counting will be dropped, and this will continue until one candidate has a majority (rather than a plurality) of votes.
About 54,000 people are signed up as delegates to choose the GOP candidates who will appear on November’s ballot.
Because the paper ballots must be counted by hand, it will likely take a while to get results. The party has reserved a ballroom at the Richmond Marriott through Thursday, May 13, where tabulators and party officials will gather, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Although the Virginia GOP has previously run unassembled conventions during the pandemic, this is the first of this size and scale, and the process getting there has been fraught with disagreement, with gubernatorial candidates pushing back on the type of ballot-counting software and state Sen. Amanda Chase’s filing a failed lawsuit against the party in an attempt to force a state-run primary election that could have drawn an expected electorate of 300,000. State Democrats have opted for a primary on June 8, and early voting started April 23.
Here are the candidates under consideration:
Seven candidates are in the race, but the race appears to favor a group of four:
- State Sen. Amanda Chase, the pro-gun rights and strongly pro-Trump conservative, has been criticized by those in her own party and was censured by the state Senate earlier this year, in part for her participation at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Although she led in early polling and fundraising, Chase’s momentum appears to have slowed down since other candidates entered the race. However, polls are of less importance in a convention format than in primaries and general elections, and Chase has strong support among Virginia’s Trump fans.
- Del. Kirk Cox, former House of Delegates speaker and a retired high school teacher, is considered a more moderate candidate compared to Chase, although he has nonetheless brought up conservative talking points such as “cancel culture.” Cox argues that he is the best prepared candidate to face off against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has a wide lead in the Democratic field of candidates, and has openly courted convention delegates to mark him as their second choice, if not their first.
- Pete Snyder, an entrepreneur from Charlottesville who made a splash last year by starting the Virginia 30 Day Fund to financially assist Virginia small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is well-known among state Republicans. Although he previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state GOP’s nomination for attorney general, Snyder has cast himself as an outsider candidate and is focused on opening state schools for in-person learning.
- Former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin, another Northern Virginia businessman, also claims the “outsider” title and is touting his business expertise and promises to create jobs. (Youngkin and Snyder have largely self-funded their campaigns, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections in April.)
- Other candidates include: Sergio de la Peña, a retired Army colonel and former Trump administration Pentagon official; Peter Doran, a former think tank head; and former Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson.
Six candidates are in the race, but two candidates have significant fundraising leads on the others, based on campaign filings for the first quarter:
- Virginia Beach Del. Glenn Davis is a telecommunications entrepreneur and leads the field in fundraising. An unsuccessful candidate for the lieutenant governor nomination in 2017, Davis has filed a lawsuit to find out who sent out an anonymous text message to GOP voters calling him a “Gay Democrat,” although he is married to a woman.
- Former Del. Tim Hugo was also named in the mysterious text message, which supported his candidacy as a “real conservative,” but Hugo’s team says it is not behind the message. Hugo previously represented Fairfax County in the House of Delegates, losing his seat in the 2019 election.
- Other lieutenant governor candidates include: Puneet Ahluwalia, a political and business consultant; Lance Allen, a national security executive; Maeve Rigler, an attorney and financial consultant; and Winsome Sears, a former state delegate who represented Norfolk in the early 2000s.
There are four candidates running for the GOP attorney general nomination, and two have outpaced the others in fundraising:
- Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach leads the field in fundraising. The former Virginia Beach prosecutor says he would focus more attention on crime victims and would investigate the Virginia Parole Board, which has come under fire for releasing an inmate last year who killed a police officer in 1975.
- Jack White, a partner at Tysons-based corporate law firm FH+H who has represented police officers. He is a former Trump administration appointee to an Army panel on sexual assault and sexual harassment and served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. An Army veteran, he also chaired the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools. He entered the race in March but raised close to $100,000 before March 31.
- The other two candidates are Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley, a partner at the Park Haley firm and chair of the Greater Richmond Partnership; and Chuck Smith, a retired commander in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps and former Virginia Beach GOP chair.