MECHANICSVILLE — After six months of intra-party bickering that defined the Republican nomination process, the 97th District has an official candidate for the November House of Delegates race.
Thirteen-year incumbent Chris Peace finalized that process last week with a concession statement that left no questions regarding who is the Republican candidate for the seat.
That left Scott Wyatt as the last man standing in a battle that tested unity in both the local Republican committee and the state’s GOP party.
Wyatt, a retired Verizon operations manager and current vice chair of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors representing the Cold Harbor District, has steadfastly maintained his claim to the nomination since he won an overwhelming victory in a May 4 election that Peace supporters called out of order.
They answered with a June 1 canvass or firehouse primary that awarded Peace a lopsided victory with more than 2,400 votes.
The end was in sight when the GOP’s State Central Committee upheld Wyatt’s claim to the nomination in a meeting last month.
The State Department of Elections approved the result in early July, and declared Wyatt the certified candidate.
Following those announcements, Peace did not concede and said he was considering his options to ensure the voice of those 2,400 voters were heard, but finally relented late last week in a public statement.
He eluded to the voracity of the months-long battle for the nomination. “While our district has witnessed one of the most heated contests in the modern history of the General Assembly, it is time for our part of Virginia to heal and voters to focus on November,” Peace said in the release. He indicated that futher pursuit would be unproductive.
“I have evaluated my options and have concluded that further litigation of this contest does not serve the best interests of the district,” he said.
Even those realities didn’t make the decision any easier for the lifelong Hanover resident. “The devotion we’ve received from family, friends and supporters is unparalleled; however, it does not necessitate the continuance of this race.”
Wyatt acknowledged Peace’s concession in a statement on his campaign website.
“I would like to thank Delegate Chris Peace for his years of service to Hanover, King William, and New Kent counties,” Wyatt said.
“Just like (House) Speaker (Kirk) Cox said, it is important that we come together to support the Republican ticket, around the Commonwealth, and keep the Republican majority in the House of Delegates,” Wyatt continued.
He echoed sentiments expressed by Cox in a statement issued earlier last week regarding the nomination.
“Delegate Chris Peace made the right choice in recognizing the decision of every level of the Republican Party of Virginia, which decided by large margins that Scott Wyatt is the Republican nominee in the 97th District. Scott overwhelmingly won the convention on May 4th, and Party leaders have determined that victory stands.
“Over the last several months, I have consistently said the only thing that matters is holding the majority. No one should be satisfied with the process, but now is the time to focus on November,” Cox said.
He acknowledged Wyatt’s victory and issued his support for the candidate. “I commend Scott on his nomination. He is an experienced public servant and I look forward to working with him to hold the 97th District and protect our majority.”
On the local level, Hanover Republican Committee chair Nick Collette also commended Peace for his decision.
“Delegate Chris Peace made the right choice in recognizing the decision of every level of the Republican Party of Virginia, which decided by large margins that Scott Wyatt is the Republican nominee in the 97th District,” Collette said. “Scott overwhelmingly won the convention on May 4th, and Party leaders have determined that victory stands.”
Collette said his party is united for the November effort despite weeks of controversy regarding the nomination.
“As we have seen in recent weeks, the Hanover Republican Committee is more united than ever,” the chairman said. “While our Committee has undergone some very tough battles in recent weeks, our nearly unanimous vote to remove our previous chair due to her attempts to influence the outcome of the election in the 97th District is indicative of our desire to move forward and retain our strong Republican leadership across Hanover County.”
Collette predicted that united effort would lead to victory in November. “It is time to turn the page, and I am confident that the Hanover Republican Committee will be more united than ever when it comes to electing all of our Republican nominees on November 5th.”
Wyatt will face Democrat Kevin Washington in the 97th District November Delegate race.