Military in middle of convention fight

The military is stuck in the middle of a fight in Virginia over a proposed ban on political nominating conventions.

The Virginian-Pilot reports two bills have been introduced in the Legislature to prohibit parties from selecting candidates for statewide office or the General Assembly in a manner that prohibits the participation of activity-duty military, reservists and other defense personnel unable to attend due to service-related injury.

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The bills would effectively bar the use of conventions where party activists can choose nominees.

Republicans in the state are fractured following a Democratic sweep of the state's highest offices last year for the first time in decades.

National party strategists were unhappy with the conservative candidates who came out of last year’s Republican convention: Ken Cuccinelli for governor and E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor.

Backers of the legislation say the bills are designed to prevent the disenfranchisement of service members. But critics argue the measures are trying to put a stop to grassroots activists from nominating conservatives like Cuccinelli and Jackson.

“Outlawing conventions is really about a class of political insiders, consultants and career politicians who want to control the process," Susan Stimpson, a 2013 lieutenant governor candidate, said in a recent email, according to the Pilot.

"They believe by outlawing conventions entirely, they will have eliminated all ability for the people to really hold them accountable,” she said.

The bills’ authors, state Sen. Frank Wagner (R) and Del. Scott Taylor (R), who are both Navy veterans, say their proposal isn't about politics, but rather giving service members a voice in elections.

Taylor told the Pilot that those overseas should have a say "in a nominating process ... that may produce a candidate who's on the ballot who may later have a vote to send them to war."

National Republicans are hoping to avoid a real challenge at this year’s convention in the Virginia Senate race after former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie jumped into the contest against Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) last week. The convention is slated for June.

The state Senate’s military convention bill passed out of a subcommittee and will have a committee hearing on Tuesday.