Scott Wyatt, the challenger in a heated GOP nomination fight with Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover, is appealing a vote by the local legislative committee to pick the candidate in a June 1 firehouse primary.
Wyatt, a Hanover County supervisor, is challenging the vote in an appeal to the GOP committee for the 1st Congressional District, arguing that he has already clinched the party’s nomination through a convention Saturday at Atlee High School.
The district covers New Kent County and parts of Hanover and King William counties.
Wyatt and Peace have warred for weeks over the nomination, accusing each other of acting in bad faith in the weeks before the planned convention. The GOP’s 97th House District legislative committee voted to cancel the convention three days before it was scheduled to take place, over the protests of Wyatt and the district committee’s chairman, Tom Miller.
That May 1 vote during a meeting at the Ashland Branch Library is at the center of Wyatt’s complaint, according to documents his attorney Jeffrey Adams provided to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Wyatt’s campaign argues that the committee’s vote to cancel the convention is invalid because it took place after Miller adjourned the meeting, which had by then “spun entirely out of control.”
Peace said Thursday afternoon that he is reviewing Wyatt’s filing.
The Wyatt campaign argues that Miller was faced with a heated meeting that saw some guests become “increasingly disorderly” and even “potentially violent,” and for those reasons, opted to adjourn.
The Times-Dispatch reported that bickering in the room at the May 1 meeting led a committee member to threaten, “There’s a sheriff’s deputy outside that’ll have your ass thrown out.”
Wyatt’s campaign also argues in the appeal that even if the meeting had not been adjourned, the rules of order that govern committee proceedings dictate that certain actions can’t be undone — like the selection of delegates to participate in the convention.
Wyatt’s campaign argues that once the nomination method is selected, changing course “violates ... the Committee’s duties of fairness and neutrality.”
Peace’s supporters feared an upset loss to Wyatt in a convention format, and believed he would fare better under a more open nomination process. His supporters on the committee argued that the convention should be scrapped due to concerns about its planning and logistics such as the amount of space at the venue.
Wyatt supporters, arguing that the vote to scrap the convention was invalid, went ahead with the balloting Saturday at Atlee, despite a statement from state GOP Chairman Jack Wilson that the event was no longer a convention but a rally for Wyatt.
With few Peace supporters on hand, Wyatt won easily. Miller on Monday told state election officials that Wyatt was selected as the party’s nominee. Peace’s backers on the legislative committee then wrote to state elections officials to say Wyatt had not been certified as nominee.
On Wednesday in King William, the committee met to move forward with plans for the June 1 firehouse primary. The candidate filing deadline is May 17, so more candidates could potentially file to join the fray, should this process be upheld. The Republican Party of Virginia published an official call for the June 1 party canvass on its website.
State party officials say the GOP’s committee for the 1st Congressional District has a seven-day notice requirement to summon its members for official business, such as a hearing in the Wyatt appeal. That panel’s decision in the matter could then be appealed to the party’s State Central Committee.
Peace, who has repeatedly called the convention a Wyatt “rally,” reached out to supporters Thursday to raise money ahead of the firehouse primary.
“Over the next 23 days, we will need to contact thousands of Republican voters in this district and let them know of the new date and encourage them to vote on June 1,” the email read.