Virginia’s Republican Party is considering a possible switch from an open primary to a convention to decide its candidate for governor in next year’s state election, which could give GOP conservatives and party activists more control over the nominating process, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch
The move would likely benefit Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli more than Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is considered more of a moderate within the party ranks, the newspaper said. Bolling would attract more votes in an open primary where independent and Democratic voters are allowed to cast their ballots along with Republicans.
New members of the GOP State Central Committee are apparently generating talk of a convention.
Most are tea party activists and former supporters of Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. They now occupy 24 of the 44 seats on the committee, the Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday.
A switch in the nominating process, however, would require reversing a decision endorsed by party officials last October to continue using the open primary system through the 2013 election.
To change the rules now, Bolling spokeswoman Ibbie Hedrick told the Times Dispatch, would upset at least a half dozen state campaigns that have been launched under the assumption that nominees would be decided by a primary.
“You can’t change the rules in the middle of an election,” Hedrick said. “The efforts to do so are unprecedented, procedurally out of order, and open the party to significant legal concerns.”
Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall told the newspaper the attorney general has been anticipating running in an open primary as well.
But, Wall added, “We’d obviously rather use the $2 million to $3 million we’d save in a convention to use against Democrats in a general election.”
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