Last week I mentioned that candidates can be nominated by conventions and primaries. They can also be nominated in mass meetings or firehouse primaries (a mini-primary run by the Party not the state). This week I’d like to explain who decides which method is used to nominate candidates. Local unit committees decide the nominating process for local elected offices. For state-wide office (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General), the State Central Committee decides. However, Virginia’s “Incumbent Protection Act” (IPA) comes into play for the Virginia Senate, the Virginia House of Delegates, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Congress.
The IPA says that an incumbent can determine the method of nomination. If there is no Republican incumbent, then the Legislative District Committee [LDC] (for General Assembly offices), State Central (for U.S. Senate), or the Congressional District Committee (for Congress) make that call. If we have a Republican incumbent, under Virginia law, that incumbent gets to decide the method of nomination. They invariably choose a primary.
The General Assembly won’t change the law because it works to the advantage of incumbents. They have name recognition; they have voter data; they have considerable amounts of money from their political contributors; so it is in their best interests to have a primary because they have the means to get more voters to the polls than do potential challengers. [That didn’t help former Congressman Eric Cantor against Dave Brat, but there were a lot of other things going against Cantor.]
The 24th Senate LCD filed suit last year against the IPA when incumbent Senator Emmitt Hanger insisted on a primary even though the Legislative District Committee voted to have a convention. Just this week a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court ruled 2-1 against the plaintiffs (including the Republican Party of Virginia itself). Click here for the story. The question now is whether the decision will be appealed to the full Circuit Court. This case has deep implications.
The incumbents consider this to be a very important case as well considering the efforts some have made to defeat the reelection of the members of the 24th LDC who filed the suit. LDCs are made up of the Chairs of the local committees that are represented by the legislator with proportional voting based on the number of each units’ voters in the LDC. To replace certain LDC members, a slander campaign against Waynesboro Unit Chair Ken Adams accused him of being a racist and chasing a black committee member named Carl Tate out of town. Carl quashed those lies with a full-page letter detailing how Ken had given him every opportunity to learn, grow, and advance as a leader in the Party. He moved out of town because it was too far to commute to his new job. The slanderers didn’t care that Ken had taken a committee from just three members to 60. They weren’t interested in the good of the party. They were interested in keeping certain incumbents elected.
In Staunton, these people called everyone they could think of to run against Chairman Matt Fitzgerald. They were so inept in their efforts that they even called the lead lawyer prosecuting the LDC’s suit and asked him to run for Chair. [He declined.]
They hoped to hold on to the chairmanship in Augusta County where the chair did not support the suit, but grass roots voters are so sick of these types of shenanigans that instead they elected Curt Lilly as chairman. He too is a strong opponent of the IPA.
In practical terms, the IPA is a roadblock to grassroots efforts to hold incumbents accountable. In primaries, elected Republicans who vote too much like Democrats can get their Democrat friends to come vote in our primaries. It happens too often. At conventions, we can exercise much more control over who is actually making our nominating decisions than we can in primaries.
As a member of State Central, I will be a voice against these tactics used to protect elected officials no matter how good or bad they are. If you think that elected officials work for us – and not the other way around – then you and I are on the same page. Hopefully, you will vote to elect me to State Central so that I can represent you as you want to be represented.
Steve “Doc” Troxel, Ph.D.
P.S. Wouldn’t it be great if the various factions within the GOP could work together in harmony? We will write soon about why some people refuse to let that happen.
ERRATA: In last week’s email I probably left the impression that there are 46 delegates to the national convention from Virginia. Actually, Virginia will elect 46 delegates to that convention. Our National Committeeman, our National Committeewoman, and our State Chairman will also go to the convention as our delegates by virtue of their position in the Republican Party of Virginia. Virginia will send a total of 49 delegates.