GOP decision to hold convention not popular with anyone other than Democrats.
RICHMOND-Amanda Chase wants everyone to know she’s still a Republican. In next year’s race for governor, however, she’ll be running as an independent. Chase split with the Republican plan Saturday, after the Virginia party’s central committee voted to use a convention rather than a primary to determine their candidate for governor.
“It’s official. While I am a Republican, I will be seeking the nomination in a primary as an independent,” Chase wrote on her FaceBook page after the vote. “It’s the only way to bypass the political consultants and the Republican establishment elite who slow play the rules or even cheat grassroots candidates.”
Amanda Chase argued that Republican leadership constantly proves its out of touch with the people of Virginia.
“Now they are only allowing the party elite to participate,” Chase wrote. “I am a Republican running as an Independent in a primary. Keeping my word to my February announcement that I would run for governor.”
It’s unclear exactly what Amanda Chase was referring to, when she mentioned a primary. There is no primary where independent candidates compete against each other in Virginia. Her decision leaves former Virginia Speaker of the House Kirk Cox as the only candidate currently running for the Republican nomination.
The convention vote itself was a contentious and at times confusing event. Multiple times after votes, members asked if they could change their decision and some seemed confused as to what the motion was they were voting on.
Backtracking as Republicans Weigh In
Republicans around the Commonwealth had issues with Chase’s decision, believing it would split the vote next year.
“All that Senator Chase’s independent campaign does is split the Republican Party and prevent us from unifying,” the Fairfax County Republican Party wrote on its FaceBook page. “Too many politicians are in it for themselves. Sadly, Senator Amanda Chase’s choice today reflects that.”
Chase’s opponent in the 2021 election, Kirk Cox, put out a statement soon after she announced her plans.
“Amanda Chase’s antics have long grown more than tiresome,” Cox said. “Her threat to run as an independent is based solely on the fact that she knows principled, conservative Republicans will never tolerate the demagogue she has become. She could participate in this nomination contest, but instead she will fade from relevance as loyal Republicans continue to focus on putting our conservative principles to work solving the challenges people face daily in this Commonwealth.”
The argument from political analysts and politicians is that a conservative independent like Amanda Chase would split the vote in 2021, basically giving the election to the Democratic nominee.
Chase seemed to acknowledge this one day later. On Sunday, she asked grassroots Republicans to force a revote.
“I support primaries that allow people to vote at their regular polling location,” Chase wrote in a Sunday Facebook post. “We must select a method that allows more of our people to participate not less. If Republicans are going to win again they must include more people not less. I will only run in a method of nomination that allows every day regular people to vote and participate. If the governing body at RPV choses a method that empowers only the Republican elite; they will split the vote and hand the executive branch right back to the Democrats.”
Not a Popular Decision
Saturday’s convention decision didn’t win much support around the state. Current U.S. House 5th District Rep. Denver Riggleman, who lost his re-election bid in this year’s primary, ripped his party’s decision.
“We’ve seen how this ends,” Riggleman wrote on Twitter. “Follow the money, corruption and the grift and there’s your GOP Governor candidate. And we wonder why Virginia Democrats keep kicking the GOP’s ass in every election cycle.”
Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling agreed, calling it a stupid decision.
“In an amazingly stupid decision, the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia voted today to nominate the party’s candidates for statewide office in 2021 in a closed party convention, as opposed to an open statewide primary,” Bolling wrote on his FaceBook page. “This just shows how out of touch a majority of the Republican leadership is with reality.”
Bolling himself has experience with a situation like this. He ran for the party’s nomination in 2013. However after Ken Cuccinelli entered the race, the party’s State Central Committee switched from a primary to a convention. That damaged Bolling’s chances, as in order to vote at a convention, you have to show up at the one location in person. Traditionally, very few voters make that trip. That often means a party’s insiders can get their candidate through. A primary, meanwhile, allows you to vote locally. Bolling ended up withdrawing from the race, leaving Cuccinelli as the Republican nominee for governor. He lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
On Saturday, Bolling argued that Republicans need to build their party, not limit who’s involved in the process.
“Primaries tend to grow the party, by involving hundreds of thousands of people in the nominating process,” Bolling wrote. “They increase a candidate’s statewide viability and better prepare candidates for the general election.”
Democrats Go a Different Direction
While Republicans didn’t listen to that advice, Democrats did. In a simple and clear vote, Virginia Democrats agreed on Saturday to hold a primary to choose a nominee for governor. There wasn’t much to report on because unlike their colleagues across the aisle, the decision to hold a primary was met with zero opposition. It was a unanimous vote. The party has one of its most diverse and potentially crowded fields in years.
Governor Ralph Northam can’t run for re-election, as the Virginia Constitution prevents governors from serving consecutive terms. Current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy have all entered the race for the Democratic nomination. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe filed paperwork to create a gubernatorial campaign committee but he hasn’t officially announced yet.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].