RICHMOND -- In what appears to be the final -- and perhaps definitive -- statement by the Republican Party of Virginia regarding a contentious 97th District House of Delegate nomination process, the GOP’s State Central Committee ruled on Saturday, June 22, to validate a May 4 Convention that selected Scott Wyatt as the party’s nominee.
Party officials said they would submit Wyatt’s name to the state’s Board of Elections on Monday, June 24, eliminating any confusion as to who will represent the Republican candidate this November.
“I appreciate the SCC committee ruling today reaffirming what the 1st District Committee had already said,” Wyatt said after the vote. “This is a final decision by the 84 members from around the Commonwealth; their decision stands.”
Jeff Adams, an attorney who sits on the SCC and is associated with the Wyatt campaign, said the ruling is the party’s definitive decision on the controversy.
“Within the party, this is definitive,” Adams said. “There’s always the possibility that Mr. [Chris] Peace will bring legal action, but we believe the State Board of Elections will now certify Mr. Wyatt as the Republican nominee,” Adams said.
The ruling left 13-year incumbent Del. Chris Peace on the outside looking in regarding his party’s nod, but the Republican said he’s still not sure what would be his next move.
The SCC is the final step in the party process regarding appeals or settling disputes, and the panel approved a resolution that accepted the results of the convention in favor of a Firehouse Primary won by Peace on June 1.
“Nearly 2,500 people voted on June 1. Libertarians have overthrown the will of real Republican voters,” Peace said in a statement following the decision. “This should not stand, and, therefore, I am keeping all options on the table.”
With the June 11 deadline already passed regarding filing deadlines for Independent candidates, it’s unclear what those options would include.
Wyatt claimed the convention victory with more than 470 delegate votes in early May, while Peace claimed a set of results supporting his candidacy from a canvass held on June 1, neither event officially sanctioned by the RPV at the time they were held.
The 97th District Legislative District Committee cancelled the convention days before it was scheduled, and Wyatt’s campaign appealed that decision to the 1st Congressional District Committee.
On May 20, the District Committee ruled in Wyatt’s favor and declared the canvass null and void, effectively handing the nomination to the Cold Harbor representative on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors.
Both campaigns have expressed concerns regarding the process, and Peace supporters claimed the system was rigged and officials had failed to secure appropriate clearance for the convention held at Atlee High School.
At Saturday’s meeting, committee members seemed intent on making a final decision and supplying the Board of Elections with a nominee. Election officials had requested that RPV officials provide a single name for nomination approval.
Following the introduction of the resolution that named Wyatt as the nominee, committee member and Peace supporter Mike Thomas asked RPV chair Jack Wilson to declare the motion out of order, but the committee overruled the chair’s decision to not hear the motion.
Peace did not attend the meeting, and supporters of the incumbent left the Richmond Convention Center en masse following the decision.
But Peace, in his statement, made clear his objection to the process, a flawed system from start to finish in his mind.
“I am sad that the extreme in our party decided to marginalize these Virginia voices to accomplish shortsighted goals that lead only to continued losses for our party,” he said.
“The SCC voted and violated the party’s own corporate charter and governing rules. It is the culmination of a flawed process that was rigged from the beginning to produce a particular result,” he continued.
The SCC ruling appears to be the final statement from the RPV regarding a 97th District nomination fight that not only split the Hanover Republican party, but also had repercussions at the state level.
State Sen. Tommy Norment, R-3, backed Wyatt, while House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-66, supported the Peace campaign, a controversy that began with a controversial vote to expand Medicaid in Virginia.
In other business, the committee affirmed Nick Collette’s election as chair of the Hanover Republican Committee and reversed a RPV Appeals Committee ruling that backed Dale Taylor’s contention that her removal was out of order.
The committee voted to accept Collette’s appeal, effectively ousting Taylor as party chair.
The HRC voted to remove Taylor at its May 29 meeting.
“Based on what the SCC did today, I would say that Nick Collette is the chairman of the Hanover Committee and, honestly, I don’t think anyone is really going to fight that battle anymore because the whole point of trying protect Dale Taylor was to try to make Chris Peace the nominee,” Adams said.
The SCC also voted to nominate its 2020 presidential candidate at a convention, but opted for a primary to select a candidate to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
“We are looking forward to November and we need to bring the party back together,” Wyatt said. “We’ll be meeting in Hanover, New Kent and King William [counties] to bring those people back together because we do have a Democratic opponent. “We’re all conservatives. We’ll get back on the right page.”
That might be easier said than done, as a disgruntled group of Peace supporters left Saturday’s meeting less than satisfied.
King William LDC representative John Hubbard indicated the wounds created by the five-month nomination battle are more than skin-deep as he entered the meeting.
“If they do what I think they are going to do, I know of 2,400 97th District Republicans who won’t be voting for Scott Wyatt,” he said, referring to the voters who cast ballots for Peace at the June 1 primary.
Wyatt will face Democratic nominee Kevin Washington, a New Kent Defense Department IT specialist, on Nov. 5.