Primary, or convention in 24th Senate District?

Emmett Hanger senate mapBy Lynn R. Mitchell

A lawsuit driven by one man, Waynesboro GOP Chairman Ken Adams, embraced by challenging tea party candidate Dan Moxley, reportedly backed by anonymous consultants and financiers from other areas of the Commonwealth, and represented by local lawyer John Wirth along with Ken Adams’ son, the 24th State Senate seat has become a proving ground of sorts for the right wing of the Republican Party of Virginia that wants conventions to rule all political candidate selections in the Commonwealth (see Republican committee challenges Virginia law in court).

Situated in Augusta County, Rockingham, Madison, Green, and Culpeper as well as the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, the 24th has been represented since the 1990s by Senator Emmett Hanger. This time around sees a challenge from tea party candidate Moxley, Augusta County supervisor Marshall Pattie who also has tea party backing, and local farmer Donald Sheets, an unexpected last-minute entry (see Hanger gets another challenger).

On Wednesday the Staunton News Leader opined about the latest in a continuous stream of battles put forth by those who make up the tea party and Libertarian membership of the GOP (see Of primary importance):

A Republican hasn’t won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. One would think that might give the GOP pause — a long enough pause to figure out why they’ve stopped winning and then move forward to better days. Instead, it is giving some party activists a bad case of the denying double-downs.

They have decided if they can’t win open elections, they’ll seek to limit the number of voters who participate. In nominating candidates, they’ll aim for conventions over primaries.

Never mind that it didn’t work in 2013, when the GOP snatched defeat from the jaws of gubernatorial victory by nominating, via a convention, a far-right ticket that lost a race more moderate Republicans could have won.

Some in the Virginia GOP are even pushing for a convention to choose the state’s 2016 presidential nominee. If they succeed, Republican voters engaged enough to know the difference between Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker must also be invested enough to travel to a convention site, if they want a real voice in the process.

The NL goes on to say that conventions are not the route to take, and lists all the reasons why including long distances to travel, military, those too ill to travel. I can add more: child care, work obligations, and elderly folks who absolutely cannot travel and navigate the venue much less spend 12 hours in an often-terse arena.

In the 24th State Senate District, Waynesboro GOP chairman Ken Adams along with the 24th District legislative committee made up of reps from each of the seven GOP units including locals Georgia Long (Augusta), Matt Fitzgerald (Staunton), and Dean Welty (Valley Family Forum founder representing Rockingham chair Donna Moser) voted to sue the State Board of Elections because they wanted a convention instead of a primary, as chosen by incumbent Hanger, believing the legislative committee has the right to decide the method of nomination instead of the incumbent.

The News Leader addressed that, too:

We agree that the incumbents shouldn’t choose the nominating process. Neither, though, should party activists. The law should simply allow only a primary, the process open to the most voters.

At the present time incumbent Emmett Hanger and challenger Marshall Pattie are following state law and preparing for a June primary (see State moves forward with Republican primary). The News Leader editorial noted:

State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, wisely wants a primary for his seat’s Republican nomination. He wants to be the nominee himself and is not afraid of the voters. Party activists who say Hanger isn’t conservative enough know he is likely to defeat his opponents in a primary and thus want a convention, which excludes many moderate, less ideological voters.

Theses activists’ goal is not wide public participation, but for only a select-few delegates to choose who represents us all, for as Hanger points out, in the heavily Republican Shenandoah Valley, the primary election functions as the general election.

The fewer the number of voters, the happier the far right is. Too often their my-way-or-the-highway strategy works.

We hope for the voters’ sake, the far right fails this time. Nominees — whether for U.S. president or Virginia senate — should be chosen by the highest number of voters possible. That makes a primary preferable to a convention, every time.

In an email to the legislative committee, Adams informed of the lawsuit’s filing:

To the Members, Officers and Convention Planners for SD 24,

At 3:00 pm this afternoon, I delivered a Complaint to the United States District Court in Harrisonburg. A copy of the Complaint is attached.

I am absolutely convinced that the filing of a Federal lawsuit signals the demise of the unconstitutional law that we call the Incumbent Protection Act.

We did not need anyone to draw up a plan for us. We did not need any celebrity endorsements. And, we did not need the approval of the media.

What we needed was Big Vision and Courage, and we had those things in abundance.

Now, we will duke it out in court. It will be a spectacular legal battle. Most of those who follow the Commonwealth’s law and political news will be transfixed by the events in Harrisonburg.

When it is all over, I believe that Virginia will be free from an unconstitutional law that distorts the election process.

You are an inspiring group of Virginians. You have shown others that great things can be accomplished when people have Big Vision and Courage.

My profound compliments to you.


Note: Please do not discuss the actual litigation with the media. Our attorneys do not want to have the Court think that we are trying to influence the legal outcome through public pressure.

He included a copy of the lawsuit that was filed against the Virginia State Board of Elections and signed off on by John Wirth of Nelson, McPherson, Summers & Santos, L.C. as well as Thomas E. Ullrich and Jeffrey R. Adams of Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver, PLC, all representing the 24th Senate District Legislative Committee.

There are many twists and turns to this issue. Stay tuned….

Update: The Washington Post opined on the convention versus primary issue (see Virginia’s GOP moves further away from democracy).

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6 thoughts on “Primary, or convention in 24th Senate District?

  1. […] of time? (See Primary, or convention in 24th Senate District? and ‘First they came for the volunteers, and I did not speak […]

  2. […] proceedings to electe “delegates” to a closed convention. And the beat goes on. (See Primary, or convention in 24th Senate District? and ‘First they came for the volunteers, and I did not speak […]

  3. […] What many have considered a sideshow in the 24th Senate District is finally settled. With the inconvenient but obviously planned timing of the 24th state senate legislative committee bringing a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia demanding only conventions behind them, candidates can now move forward as they approach the June 9th primary (see Primary, or convention for 24th senate district?). […]

  4. […] info: – 24th Senate District: Court upholds laws of Commonwealth, Hanger gets primary – Primary, or convention in 24th Senate District? – Emmett Hanger’s district chairs go legal route to convention […]

  5. […] lawsuit was not settled until shortly before the June 2015 Republican primary (see Primary, or convention in 24th Senate district? and 24th Senate District: Court upholds laws of Commonwealth, Hanger gets primary). He has now […]

  6. […] lawsuit was not settled until shortly before the June 2015 Republican primary (see Primary, or convention in 24th Senate district? and 24th Senate District: Court upholds laws of Commonwealth, Hanger gets primary). He has now […]

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