The Virginia Republican Party has decided that statewide candidates running in the November election will be nominated at a May 8 drive-in convention at Liberty University, though the Evangelical college says it has not yet agreed to any particular contract or plan.
The convention will be used instead of a primary to choose the nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The decision, made late Tuesday night by Virginia Republicans' State Central Committee, followed months of disagreements over the best methods to choose the GOP candidates in the off-year election.
Conservatives have long accused the Virginia GOP of using a convention instead of a primary as a way to protect establishment candidates. The Virginia Democratic Party will choose its 2021 nominees through a state-run primary on June 8.
Attendees of the drive-in Republican convention will be able to stay in their cars for the whole time to comply with social distancing guidelines.
The state party said Liberty, known for its support for conservative causes, has already approved the plan. However, the Lynchburg university pushed back on that claim, saying nothing has been set in stone.
"When asked by the Virginia GOP officials about the possibility of leasing portions of retail center lots off campus for a day to facilitate a COVID-19 plan for its convention, Liberty said it would consider it, provided that full rental cost for the use was paid," the school said in a Wednesday statement.
Liberty University says it has not yet agreed to host the Virginia GOP’s nominating convention.— Richard Chumney (@RichChumney) February 24, 2021
The party’s central committee voted last night to hold the drive-in convention in university-owned parking lots in Lynchburg. pic.twitter.com/40tujS51zl
The decision to hold a convention over a primary has significant ramifications for the nominating process. A candidate could have won a primary with 30 percent of the vote, but winning the nomination in a convention would require the support of 50 percent of delegates.
The convention will use ranked-choice voting, meaning that should no candidate get 50 percent or more of the vote on the first round, subsequent picks are taken into account until one contender emerges with a majority of the vote.
One of the most vocal proponents for a GOP primary is state Sen. Amanda Chase, a candidate for governor who has aligned herself closely with former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out to Manchin following his Build Back Better opposition MORE and boasts enthusiastic grassroots support in pockets of the state.
However, bipartisan criticism over past comments calling for martial law to overturn the 2020 presidential election and apparently expressing support for the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 has raised questions over whether she could hit the 50 percent threshold.
“I would like the VA GOP State Central Committee to answer a question. 1,962,430 voters voted for President Trump in Virginia. How are you going to accommodate these people who will want to cast a vote for our statewide candidates?” Chase tweeted in a rebuke of the Tuesday night decision.
I would like the VA GOP State Central Committee to answer a question. 1,962,430 voters voted for President Trump in Virginia. How are you going to accommodate these people who will want to cast a vote for our statewide candidates?— Senator Amanda Chase (@AmandaChaseVA) February 24, 2021
Eight Republicans are vying for the nomination to run for governor, while five are running for lieutenant governor and three are running for attorney general.