By now, most observers of Republican politics here in the Old Dominion know what transpired down in Virginia Beach Monday evening. Gary Byler, the current chair of RPV’s 2nd Congressional District Committee, is a supporter of conventions to determine our statewide nominees, and the establishment old boy network of our state party doesn’t like conventions anymore, so they wanted to replace him. He elected NOT to run for re-election, and the Vice Chair of the 2nd, Curtis Colgate, stepped up. He also is a supporter of conventions, and is a fairly big donor, has a long history of party activism, and notably owns the historic Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach. Establishment Senator Frank Wagner (R-7th) put together a campaign for the chair of the 2nd before Byler announced he wasn’t running. You may remember Frank Wagner is the genius who introduced, along with his buddy Del. Scott Taylor (R-85th), bills in both houses of the General Assembly this past session to forbid any method of nomination except open primaries by ANY political party for statewide candidates. Thankfully, this effort went down to ignominious defeat after a popular outcry.
Back to Monday evening at the Virginia Beach Republican Party mass meeting. Sen. Wagner knew the Beach comprises 64% of the total voting strength at the 2nd Congressional District Convention this year, so he was kind enough to help slate the Virginia Beach delegation down to just 32, including himself and his most reliable minions. This was out of nearly 1,000 people who filed to be delegates. He disenfranchised all of these people simply because some of them were Colgate supporters. The hand count was NOT done through a ‘division of the house’, so that both sides get an accurate, fair count. It was orchestrated so Wagner’s people had every advantage. If it stands, he has 100% of the Beach’s voting strength, and is now guaranteed the chairmanship of the 2nd. Slating is something that’s done to remove ineligible or compromised voters, such as known members of another political party, etc. This was done so that Frank Wagner can win. No other reason. Del. Barry Knight (R-81st) and Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-8th), along with Taylor, helped organize and lead this effort. Del. Chris Stolle (R-83rd), chaired the mass meeting and played along. The rumor is that Sen. Wagner is planning to use this as a springboard to take control of the RPV State Central Committee over the next few years, and then run for Governor in 2017 in an open primary, which he will ensure is the mandatory method of nomination. Particularly distasteful is how Wagner, Taylor and co. hide behind the “Conventions disenfranchise members of the military!” canard. This is the worst, basest, craven cowardice. I’ll bet some of the nearly 1,000 folks you slated were military, Frank.
Needless to say, I have no intention of standing by and letting this happen, and I know plenty of other grassroots Republicans leaders in the Commonwealth won’t either. If they get away with this sort of underhanded behavior here, it will happen all across Virginia. Not a chance. I plan to do my part to shine a light on this, have the Virginia Beach delegation either include everyone who filed, both at the RPV Convention in Roanoke and at the 2nd CD Convention, or have the delegation black flagged (disqualified). Then I plan to help ensure Wagner, McWaters, Taylor, Knight, and Stolle all face strong primary challenges next year. Should they gain nomination, I wouldn’t mind seeing conservative or libertarian independents in the general. These men are unworthy of being leaders, and certainly unworthy of the public trust.