97th Legislative District Committee chairman vows to hold convention, though committee voted to cancel it after he ended meeting

Staff writer

The chairman of the 97th Legislative District Committee declared the convention to select a Republican nominee for the district’s general election will happen Saturday. After he adjourned the meeting, the committee voted to cancel the convention in favor of a party canvass in June.

So while the committee appeared to have wrapped up its special meeting to consider convention cancellation after reconvening twice in recent days, what happens next in the contentious race probably isn’t as clear as most people would like just days from the convention.

On Wednesday, the 97th Legislative District Committee convened for the third time to polish off the meeting that included weighing whether to nix the convention.

After two previous meetings failed to get through the agenda, the committee voted to cancel the convention and instead hold a canvass to select either Del. Chris Peace or his challenger Scott Wyatt, a Hanover supervisor, to carry the GOP banner in the November general election. That vote came after the committee chairman Thomas Miller declared such a motion to be out of order, reaffirmed his intention to hold the convention and adjourned the special meeting.

The meeting quickly unraveled when John Hubbard, the committee’s King William representative, attempted to make a motion to cancel the convention. Miller didn’t allow a vote on the motion because he said it was out of order.

“The party plan does not give the committee the power to interfere in changing the nomination process once it is underway,” Miller said. “We cannot undo the mass meetings.”

It was at recent mass meetings that delegates from King William, New Kent and Hanover counties were selected to vote on a nominee.

“We have seventeen hundred and sixty five delegates who have filed for this convention. To cancel the convention or delay the convention is, to me, grossly wrong in terms of all the people and all the work that has been done,” Miller said. “As chair, I will move forward with the convention as best I can with the assets that I have.”

To that, Hubbard questioned whether Miller has the authority to do what he intended. Hubbard’s opposition to a convention stems from concerns about potential inability of the committee to adequately address the logistics of holding the event.

“You have no power to continue with this,” Hubbard said.

While some people followed Miller out the door, including the committee’s New Kent representative Mark Daniel, others – including Hubbard and Hanover representative Wayne Hayden, stayed glued to their chairs. Hayden was a proxy for Michael Reynold, who couldn’t attend the meeting.

The rest of the committee continued the meeting, voting to cancel the convention and establish a committee to explore holding a canvass, also known as a firehouse primary, as an alternative means to select a nominee June 1.

“We voted to cancel the convention and to hold a canvass,” Hubbard said. “It is by far the fairest way to do this.”

Hubbard said the canvass committee will be expected to report on what it finds in regard to holding a canvass at a public meeting May 8. A time and location hasn’t been determined but will be publicized. Hubbard said he wouldn’t be attending the convention because as far as he is concerned the convention is canceled.

“It was canceled legally today,” he said. “It was not my first choice. I wanted a discussion on this.”

97th District House of Delegates convention

When: 8 a.m. Saturday.

Where: Atlee High School, 9414 Atlee Station Road. Note that this is a new location.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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