When I wrote my original piece about VA-05 and the behind the scenes issues with the convention the GOP were about to hold, I never thought it would go as poorly as it did. Starting from the beginning there were issues with lines, then issues with delegates and then finally issues with getting the ballots counted. After multiple challenges to the entire ballot box from Campbell County from Denver Riggleman, Bob Good was declared the winner. How Good won though should be criticized and the entire process shows a drastic need for reform within the Virginia GOP.
Conventions Already Suck
Conventions suck. And I’m not talking about convention like Comic-Con or anything, those ones are usually pretty cool. I’m talking about the ones that decide a candidate for a party. These conventions are usually undemocratic events, that allow too much room for a candidate to rig the convention in their favor. Much to my chagrin, the GOP and especially Virginia’s GOP like to do these conventions. Most of the time it comes back to bite them.
I’ll take an example from my home state first. The well known 18th district special election in March of 2018, which saw Connor Lamb get vaulted to the national scene because of his upset victory. This special might not have even been super publicized if the districts GOP had decided on a primary instead of a convention to choose their candidate. In the convention, instead of choosing well liked and young state senator Guy Reschenthaler they chose Rick Saccone. Saccone’s inability to campaign is well documented and was paramount in his slim loss to Lamb in a heavily Trump district.
When the lines were re-drawn by the PASC for the 2018 midterms, the redrawn map lead to a Saccone v Reschenthaler rematch. This time though the match was a primary. Reschenthaler beat Saccone by 10 points and is now considered one of the few rising stars the GOP has in Pennsylvania. The original mistake was allowing for Saccone to get anywhere near a congressional election in the first place. Holding a convention allowed for that mistake to happen and is part of numerous mistakes that occur with conventions when they happen.
The Virginia GOP’s struggles with conventions
The issue with conventions and the GOP really started in 2013, when the Virginia GOP decided to hold a statewide convention instead of primaries for its statewide seats that year. This led to rapid disaster among the ranks of candidates. Holding a convention in the first place led to incumbent Lt. Governor Bill Bolling dropping out and the Governor nomination going to Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli lost a very winnable race to the establishment of the establishment in Terry McAuliffe. The result of the Lt. Governor nomination turned out even worse though. Super evangelical and perennial candidate EW Jackson won the nomination for that race.
Jackson ended up losing to future Virginia Governor Ralph Northam by nine points, the worst by far of the three candidates. Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain, who was actually a decent candidate, was the drug down and lost by under 900 votes to Mark Herring. Herring was considered another rising star, until issues with a past of doing blackface ended any future hopes it seems. No matter how you look at it though, conventions have hurt Virginia’s GOP candidates more than helped.
The 5th District Convention should be their death blow
After all the issues with the most recent convention in the 5th, it should be their end. Not only did a much weaker candidate win, the whole thing made the GOP look bad. Bob Good only raised thirty thousand dollars and spent most of it paying off delegates to vote for him. The reasoning behind Good’s challenge also sets the GOP in a bad light. Primarying someone because they looked over a gay wedding? It makes the party take another step back ten years in the eyes of America’s youth.
All these results end with my final plea to the Virginia GOP. Please get rid of conventions as an option to nominate candidates. The issues with the 5th district convention should convince you of what your youth branch has known for a while. They hurt us as a party more than anything, they make the party look corrupt and they never work out well. Or are you going to force out both the College Republican and Young Republican branches? It’s time for you to make a choice. Either take steps to move into the future or stay stuck in the dredges of the past like you are now. It’s up to you. Make the right choice, I plead to you.