The state GOP central committee’s executive committee voted to affirm the 1st Congressional District Committee’s decision to uphold Hanover Delegate Scott Wyatt’s appeal in the 97th District Thursday.
The move effectively brings the state party’s support to bear on Wyatt’s claim to the Republican nomination in what’s been a bruising political fight for the nod against Del. Chris Peace.
The motion, which was passed on a 7-4 vote with one abstention, made it the position of the Republican Party of Virginia that the May 20 decision by the 1st District — which upheld Wyatt’s appeal of the 97th District Committee’s decision to cancel the May 4 convention and hold a party canvass on Saturday — is in effect.
On May 20, the Wyatt campaign appeared before the 1st District, which voted to hear the appeal and ultimately voted to uphold Wyatt’s appeal by a wide margin. Wyatt also asked to be affirmed as the GOP’s nominee in the upcoming general election in the appea. The Wyatt campaign cheered the 1st District’s ruling, while the Peace campaign disputed its validity, calling it a “faux hearing” on Facebook.
Depending on who you ask, the 1st District’s move was either correct because the 97th District didn’t have any intention of hearing the appeal and wanted to delay it into submission, therefore effectively making a ruling on the appeal, or incorrect because the 97th District hadn’t actually voted up or down on the appeal, and the appeal was therefore still its to consider. The 1st District has appellate power over the 97th District.
The executive committee’s vote came after about an hour of closed-door discussion. The voting members of the committee are the state’s congressional district committee chairmen and the party chairman.
State party chairman Jack Wilson, who abstained from the vote, declined to comment after the meeting.
“The executive committee had a meeting, you heard the motion that was passed, and that’s where we are as a party,” Wilson said.
Earlier in the day, the 97th District Committee voted to cancel the canvass scheduled for Saturday, committee chairman Thomas Miller said, adding that his committee also voted to uphold Wyatt's appeal.
The 97th District’s reversal on the canvass it had been preparing for was prompted when the Hanover GOP committee voted in a new chairman, Darryl Carr, who became the de-facto county representative on the 97th District Committee, replacing Michael Reynold, Miller said. Reynold had supported canceling the convention and holding a canvass.
Throughout the controversy and confusion that has plagued the nomination process, Peace had leaned on the state party’s positions to buttress his own position. In a emailed statement Thursday evening, an hour before the executive committee met, Peace disputed the 97th District’s cancellation of the canvass, saying that the state party still listed the canvass on its website.
“Despite what my opponent keeps incorrectly repeating, this Saturday's Firehouse Primary is STILL ON. This is true per the Republican Party of Virginia's website,” Peace said in the statement.
The executive committee’s vote would appear to pull the rug out from Peace’s argument.
Previously the state party had stood behind the cancellation of the May 4 convention that Wyatt won and Peace declared illegitimate after the 97th District voted to cancel the convention May 1. At least one state party official had publicly disputed the 1st District’s ability to hear the appeal before the 97th District, which had deferred a decision until June 5.
“I just hope that from this point on the party can move forward and get behind our candidate in the 97th and go on to win the general election,” said Bob Watson, who is the committee chairman of the 1st District.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_