In an unruly meeting at the Ashland Branch Library, a Republican Party committee voted Wednesday evening to cancel a planned convention Saturday in the nomination fight between Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover, and Hanover County Supervisor Scott Wyatt for the seat in the 97th House District. But Wyatt supporters said the convention will still go forward.
The committee voted to hold a party nomination process on June 1 that would be open to Republican voters at several locations. However, the decision is expected to now go to the GOP committee in the 1st Congressional District to be sorted out.
Supporters of Peace have made the push to cancel Saturday’s event, where convention delegates would vote, believing the incumbent would fare better under a more open nomination process. Supporters of the more conservative Wyatt, who has attacked Peace for voting to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, want to stick with the convention.
Proponents of canceling the convention also said Tom Miller, chairman of the 97th Legislative District Committee, isn’t prepared to hold one.
The location of Saturday’s planned convention had already been changed from Hanover High School to Atlee High School.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the committee, Miller said he planned to move forward with the convention Saturday.
Miller stopped other committee members from holding votes.
“Your motion is out of order ... and we are not going to vote on it,” Miller told committee member John Hubbard, who told Miller, “You are obstructing this meeting.”
Miller then loudly banged his gavel twice and exclaimed, “Adjourned!”
Miller left as people in the audience bickered. Hubbard continued the meeting. The committee — where Peace has majority support — then voted to cancel the convention and hold a party canvass on June 1.
Hubbard told people in the room to quiet down. “There’s a sheriff’s deputy outside that’ll have your ass thrown out.”
Opponents of a convention have cited cost as a concern. In response, Miller noted in an email Wednesday to Republicans that Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, has agreed to fund all convention costs that exceed the candidate filing fees.
Norment is working to unseat Peace. Norment aide Jeff Ryer attended Wednesday’s meeting, observing from the back of the room.
The district covers New Kent County and parts of Hanover and King William counties.
The nomination fight between Peace and Wyatt will likely decide who will represent the solidly GOP district.
The Wyatt campaign posted on Facebook after the meeting that the convention would still be on.
“Tonight, after yet a third meeting in five days, Peace’s campaign again attempted to stonewall the convention process by raising false concerns about convention logistics. It was never about logistics in the first place but about changing the rules to benefit Del. Peace,” the Facebook post said.
“All concerns have been addressed. Convention preparations are ready two days early. Looking forward to seeing you all Saturday at Atlee High School.”