Opinion: What is the Virginia GOP Thinking?


Last week, Virginia Republican Party leaders voted to not hold a primary election in 2013. The posts of Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General are among those up for grabs.

Instead, the GOP will host a convention at which delegates select candidates to run for statewide offices.

Democrats will have a primary in which all voters can participate.

The decision by the state GOP is mind boggling on many accounts.

First and foremost, it takes power from the hands of voters.

GOP leaders, party insiders and big dollar donors who bankroll campaigns may have reasons for wanting to steer the nomination to a favorite candidate, but the decision to relegate the selection process to what is tantamount to a smoke-filled backroom is undemocratic.

About 260,000 people voted in the most recent Republican Primary in Virginia.

4,000 participants were expected at the most recent Republican Convention in Virginia. 2,000 attended.

Not only is selecting candidates at poorly attended conventions wrongheaded, it is bad for the Republican Party.

Virginia is a state with open primaries. Any registered voter can cast a ballot in party nominating contests.

Primaries help to introduce candidates to voters. In the process of doing so, some candidates attract the attention of people outside the party base.

In other words, elections -- not conventions -- can help to build the party by attracting new people into its ranks.

What person who isn’t already a diehard party loyalist is going to pay attention to a nominating convention? No one. That’s who.

A primary battle during which candidates make news and debate ideas is a perfect vehicle for attracting new blood.

Primaries also help to eliminate bad apples. The vetting process that media and opponents put candidates through can prevent a flawed individual from reaching the general election and suffering a meltdown.

New and lesser known politicians can also find their voice during a primary. A candidate who defies the odds and emerges from a primary with rock star status can enter the general election with unstoppable momentum.

The Virginia GOP has said it has no plans to reconsider its decision to nominate 2013 candidates via convention. Party leaders might want to think again.

I know it sounds crazy, but people like to be included in the Democratic process.

Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to chuckthies@gmail.com or tweet at @chuckthies.

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