Friday, June 8, 2012

Why Virginia Republicans Need a Convention in 2013 – Not a Primary

By Peyton Knight

Before I get to the topic in the headline, I want to give a heartfelt THANK YOU to the Madison County Republican Women (and men!) for all of your support, prayers and well-wishes throughout my campaign for Republican State Central Committee.  In case you didn’t hear, we won!  This was a great victory for all of us who believe in constitutional principles and conservative values, and I couldn’t be more excited about representing you for the next four years on the Committee. 

Now, as they say, the real work begins!

On June 15 the new State Central Committee (SCC) will convene for the first time in Richmond.  One of the most important things we will do at this meeting is vote on whether to nominate our statewide candidates next year (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general) by holding a Convention or a Primary.

Now, as you know, I unambiguously ran as a strong supporter of Conventions over Primaries.  And from talking to many of you, as well as many others throughout our fifth district, it’s clear to me that a substantial majority of our Republican Party faithful also prefer Conventions.  It’s also clear to me that folks want to hold a Convention instead of a Primary in 2013.

Before I explain why I, and many others, strongly prefer Conventions, I think you deserve to know a little bit of the history behind why this is a hot topic of conversation right now.  Because Lord knows, lots of information and misinformation will be flying around soon!

Back in October 2011, the SCC decided to prematurely vote to hold a Primary in 2013 -- more than two years before the election.  Now, I say “prematurely” because normally, the incoming SCC (i.e. those of us meeting on June 15) would make that decision.  When the issue came up in 2011, folks on that SCC were advised against trying to bind the hands of the new SCC in this manner.  They were told that their decision could be overturned by the new 2012 SCC.  And I’m sure that some of the folks who pushed the premature decision thought that if they put the 2012 SCC in this unfair position, they could later claim that the “rules were being changed” if the new SCC opted for a Convention.

I think it’s worth pointing out that many of the past SCC members who led the charge for the premature Primary vote were voted out of office in our recent district conventions.  Clearly, our Republican voters didn’t like what had happened and took appropriate action.

But boring history lessons and procedural matters aside, here are just a few of the reasons why I strongly believe a Convention is much better than a Primary for our Republican Party in Virginia:

1. Primaries allow Democrats and other non-Republicans to pick our candidates for us.  There is no party registration in Virginia.  That means Democrats and other non-Republicans are not only permitted, but frequently encouraged to vote in our Republican Primaries and distort the outcome in their favor.  Their votes cancel out the votes of many of our hard-working, principled and faithful Republicans.  Why on earth would we want that?  Conventions, on the other hand, make certain that only Republicans are choosing our Republican nominees for higher office. 

2. A statewide Primary would cost Virginia taxpayers upwards of $3 million.  As fiscally conservative Republicans, it would be flat-out hypocritical for us to charge taxpayers $3 million for our Party’s nomination contest.  This is especially true in these current times of unbridled government spending and over-taxation (courtesy of Barack Obama).  A Convention, on the other hand, would run in the ballpark of $200,000 to $400,000, and be paid for by our Party.  We can’t expect to lead our Commonwealth and our nation toward fiscal conservatism if we fail to lead by example when it comes to our own elections.

3. Primaries tend to leave our eventual nominees broke and wounded.  In Conventions, the campaigning and advertising is generally restricted to fellow Republicans.  Conversely, in Primaries, campaigns advertise to the greater public, where Independents and other Republican-leaning voters are subjected to all the “mud slinging” between our candidates.  This hurts our eventual nominees when it comes time for the general election.  In addition, Conventions allow our candidates to spend much less money, and save millions of dollars for what they really need it for:  going after the Democrats in the general election!

4. Conventions energize our activist and volunteer base, giving us a grassroots army to help win elections.  In essence, Conventions bring our volunteers forward, and force them to organize their ground game and get their troops motivated and active.  This gives us a HUGE head start on the Democrats once the general election rolls around.

5. History proves that Conventions give us the best chance of winning the governor’s mansion.  Consider that Virginia has elected six Republican Governors since Reconstruction:
  • Linwood Holton in 1969
  • Mills Godwin in 1973
  • John Dalton in 1977
  • George Allen in 1993
  • Jim Gilmore in 1997
  • Bob McDonnell in 2009

All of these Republican Governors were nominated in a Convention, except for Jim Gilmore, who ran unopposed in a Primary, so the method of nomination in his case didn’t really matter. 

On the other hand, each time we’ve held a competitive Primary to elect our Party’s nominee for governor (in 1989 and 2005), we LOST in the general election.  The numbers don’t lie.  Primaries doom us in the general election.  Conventions make us winners, and for many of the commonsense reasons stated above.

Again, I can’t thank everyone at MCRW for your support – and for all of the incredible work you ALL do to advance our shared cause. I could go on with more reasons why Conventions are better for us than Primaries, but I don’t want to take up the whole newsletter! We’re all in this together, and I value your advice, ideas, expertise and input immensely. God bless you all, and I hope to see you soon!  

J. Peyton Knight represents Virginia’s Fifth District on the Republican State Central Committee.