Why Do Virginia Republicans Still Use Nominating Conventions?

by Jim Geraghty

The first Morning Jolt of the week features a look at how the Obama administration is claiming that if you look too closely at the scandals, you’re on a witch hunt; a surprising Washington figure who is already “Going Bulworth”; a new hitch for the immigration bill; and then this development down in Virginia . . . 

No, Virginia, This Isn’t the Best Way to Pick a Party Nominee.

How should state parties select their nominees for high office? Let me offer a simple criterion: get as many members of the party involved as possible – but limit the decision to registered members of that party. Sorry, independents and unaffiliated voters. If you want some say in who the Republicans nominate, then join the party, and the same goes for the Democrats and their nominations.

My home state of Virginia doesn’t meet this criterion; the state doesn’t register voters by party, and this weekend the state GOP selected their lieutenant gubernatorial candidate by convention.

Brian Schoeneman, writing at Bearing Drift, lays out the consequences of this approach:

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anybody still thinks that nominating by convention is a good idea.

Let’s look at the numbers.

8,094 – The total number of registered delegates who showed up, out of over 12,000 who registered.
255,826 – The number of Republicans casting a ballot in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary.

Just from those numbers you can see that the majority of well-motivated Republicans interested in participating in our nominating processes were disenfranchised by the State Convention.

Here’s another number: $25.  As my colleague Melissa Kenney noted the other day, that’s the cost for children to attend the convention.  For a family as large as hers, or as large as Ken Cuccinelli’s, it would cost almost $200 for them to attend the convention.  That doesn’t include meals, transportation, and hotel costs for those who didn’t come from Richmond or the surrounding suburbs and don’t want to risk a 5+ hour drive home after a grueling hurry-up-and-wait style convention.  Not everybody can afford the poll tax conventions effectively levy.

And despite the miracles of modern communication, cell phones, Bearing Drift and our livestream, John Frederick’s live broadcast, email, Facebook and Twitter, the convention floor was still rife with rumors and nonsense, including the fake/rescinded endorsement controversy between Corey Stewart and Pete Snyder on the final ballot. Conventioneers were treated like fungi – kept in the dark and fed crap – and that inevitably had an impact on the final selection of E. W. Jackson as our Lt. Governor nominee.  Information trickled out of the counting area, and it was left to bloggers and social media to keep convention goers in the know.  And given the length of the convention, cell phones were dying or dead far before the convention was gaveled closed at 10:30 Saturday night.

We’ve all heard the arguments over the years about disenfranchisement of military members, parents with small children who can’t afford the cost of childcare, small business owners who can’t afford to give up a spring Saturday to the convention, the elderly who can’t go for 16 hours at a time, and the rest.  That was clearly in evidence yesterday, given that by the time the fourth ballot rolled around, over a third of the conventioneers who had showed up had left.  The final ballot saw fewer that 5,000 votes cast.

Is that what we really want?

Meet E. W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor:

E. W. Jackson served three years and was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps. He then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA), Summa Cum Laude with a Phi Beta Kappa Key from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Three years later he graduated from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor (JD). While in law school, he was accepted into the Baptist ministry and studied theology at Harvard Divinity School.

Jackson practiced small business law for 15 years in Boston, and taught Regulatory Law as an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate level at Northeastern University in Boston. Since returning to his ancestral home of Virginia, he has also taught graduate courses in Business and Commercial Law at Strayer University in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

In 1997, he retired from his private law practice in order to devote full time to ministry. However, he still taught law and maintained both his avid interest in – and commitment to — civic and political responsibility. His first book, “Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life,” was published in 2008. His second book, “America the Beautiful – Reflections of a Patriot Descended from Slaves” is scheduled for release in 2012.

Jackson’s family history in Virginia dates back to the time of the Revolutionary War. According to the 1880 census, his great grandparents (Gabriel and Eliza) were a sharecropper family in Orange County, Virginia. His grandfather, Frank Jackson, moved to Richmond and then to Pennsylvania, where Jackson was born.

Expect every Republican running for office in the next two years to run on the theme that government, particularly the federal government, has abused the trust of the American people:

Vance Wilkins Jr., the first-ever Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and now active in the tea party movement, was asked to handicap the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe contest.

Wilkins flashed his knowing jack-o’-lantern grin: “That depends on what happens with those congressional hearings” — a reference to House and Senate inquiries of the controversies roiling the Obama administration — “They will flavor it.”

The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.