Hand count at Richmond hotel will decide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Republican party officials in Virginia have begun counting votes cast in Saturday’s statewide drive-thru nominating convention to pick their nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, with at least one candidate already lobbing charges of malfeasance.
The count began Sunday afternoon at a hotel in downtown Richmond. It will be done by hand, after some candidates objected to using computer software programs over fraud concerns, and live-streamed.
Due to the hand counting and complexity of the process — which includes weighting votes and ranked-choice voting — full results are not expected until at least Tuesday and could stretch to Thursday.
Delegates cast votes at 39 drive-thru locations across the commonwealth. Rich Anderson, the Republican Party of Virginia chair, said officials “could not be happier with how smoothly and efficiently our convention was run.”
“We would also like to ensure all the convention delegates that their ballots will be counted fairly and accurately – leaving no room for doubt or question as to whom our nominees will be,” Anderson said in a statement.
However, State Senator Amanda Chase — who calls herself “Trump in heels” — took to Twitter shortly after convention closed to allege that party officials in Madison and Prince William counties were not following the rules. She accused them of trying to tilt the election to one of her rivals, Pete Snyder, and threatened to bolt the party.
“If RPV steals this election for Pete I still have plenty of time to run as an independent,” she tweeted. “Clear corruption by RPV, I will not honor a pledge if the Party cannot run a fair process.”
Since the 2020 election, Chase has embraced Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and his assertion that he was cheated out of re-election. She was censured by her Senate colleagues and stripped of committee assignments for calling the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 “patriots.”
She also carried a gun into a committee hearing, was forced to sit in a plexiglass box in the Senate chamber after refusing to wear a mask, and has vigorously opposed efforts to remove Confederate monuments. Some party leaders have expressed fears that given all of her controversies, her nomination could lead to electoral disaster in November.
Party officials plan to first count the vote in the race for attorney general, with four candidates, followed by the lieutenant governor’s race, with six, and the governor’s race, with seven.
Republicans in the Old Dominion, which has been shifting Democratic, have not won any of those offices since 2009.
Virginia Republicans decided to nominate candidates with a convention, rather than a primary, which is allowed under state law but which set off internal wrangling over process, with the loudest complaints coming from Chase, who has charged that party officials were trying to use rules to stop her.
Delegate votes won’t count equally but will be weighted based on where each delegate lives.
Each county and independent city in Virginia was given a number of delegates based on Republican performance in past elections, and delegates from each locality will pick those delegates. That means that some rural, heavily Republican counties will elect more delegates than much larger, Democratic Richmond, although larger numbers of delegates in those areas could make the value of each individual delegate vote less.
To add another layer of complexity, the party is also using ranked-choice voting, in which delegates will rank candidates rather than selecting one. If no candidate gains a majority, candidates with fewer votes will be eliminated and their votes reassigned to delegates’ second choices, until someone gains a majority.
Ranked-choice voting is normally associated with more Democratic-leaning electorates, such as the city of San Francisco and the state of Maine. But Virginia Republicans used the process in electing a party chair in 2020 and opted to continue with the practice this year.
In addition to Chase and Synder, a venture capitalist who was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013, the governor’s race includes State Delegate Kirk Cox, who served as House speaker until Republicans lost control of the legislature in 2017; Glenn Youngkin, an investment company executive; Octavia Johnson, the former sheriff in Roanoke; Peter Doran, a former think tank CEO; and Sergio de la Peña, a former Army colonel who served as a deputy assistant defense secretary in the Pentagon during the Trump administration.
The survivor of the convention will likely face the formidable challenge of trying to beat Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is trying to reclaim the post he held from 2014 to 2018 and holds a wide lead in polls in the Democratic race.
The race for lieutenant governor includes State Delegate Glenn Davis; former Delegate Tim Hugo; Puneet Ahluwalia, a business consultant; Lance Allen, an Air Force veteran who works for a defense contractor; Maeve Rigler, an attorney and businesswoman; and former Delegate Winsome Sears, whose campaign posters and Twitter feed show her carrying an assault rifle.
The lieutenant governor’s race was rocked in the final stretch with an anonymous robocall accusing Davis of being a “gay Democrat.” He filed a defamation suit to try to unmask who was behind the attack.
The attorney general’s race includes Chesterfield County Supervisor Leslie Haley, State Delegate Jason Miyares and attorneys Chuck Smith and Jack White.
Democrats will choose their nominees for all three offices in a June 8 primary.
Incumbent Governor Ralph Northam is barred by state law from seeking re-election; Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is running for governor; and Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election.