The GOP state central committee voted to declare Scott Wyatt the party’s nominee for the 97th House of Delegates District at a meeting in Richmond Saturday.
The senior-most state party committee, made up of GOP officials from across Virginia, voted 56-17 to tell the state board of elections that Wyatt is the party’s nominee, having won the valid contest for that title. The vote also affirmed a lower committee’s ruling that determined the convention where Wyatt won on May 4 was the legitimate means of selecting a nominee for the general election.
The vote by the state central committee appeared to be the final word as far as the party is concerned in the fraught political war between Wyatt, a Hanover supervisor, and Del. Chris Peace for the nomination. Both sides had accused the other of gaming the process to select a nominee and misleading voters.
Peace, who did not appear to attend the meeting, said in an emailed statement Saturday afternoon he was disappointed in the committee’s decision.
“I look forward to returning to the Capitol for the Special Session on Gun Control and continuing my service to my constituents as always. Today’s vote is the culmination of a flawed process, which was rigged from the beginning to produce a particular result,” Peace said.
While he didn't express interest in further contesting the nomination in his initial reaction, he did say "we are keeping all options on the table” in a subsequent email.
The state board of elections had been in a holding pattern after receiving results from the May 4 convention and the results of a June 1 party canvass, in which Peace declared victory. With two people declared the Republican nominee, the elections board had sought guidance from the party regarding who was the true nominee.
A short debate played out among committee members prior to the vote, with arguments centered on procedure.
First vice chairman Michael Thomas said the resolution was an appeal when no appeal had been filed to the body.
“The resolution conflicts with the party plan,” Thomas said, referring to a section of the rules that governs appeals. “There is no appeal before us.”
Jeff Adams, a committee member and lawyer with the Wyatt campaign, argued the action wasn’t an appeal at all, rather a vote to affirm the 1st Congressional District’s vote on an appeal by the Wyatt campaign May 20.
“This motion is not asking for a ruling on an appeal, we all agree there has been no appeal, but there has been an inquiry made to the party regarding the legitimate nominee,” he said.
The 1st District has appellate power over the 97th Legislative District. Wyatt had appealed the 97th District’s vote to cancel the convention just days before the event and hold the canvass, which is a party primary, instead.
Committee member John Cosgrove said the debate over who the nominee is has continued for too long and needed to be ended.
“Look, this has dragged on and on. This is a terrible situation. This is something that needs to be resolved here and now, today. Otherwise, this can go on almost until Election Day. And that’s why I think we really need to take action and define a candidate,” Cosgrove said.
The approved resolution, which had three abstentions including state party chairman Jack Wilson, directed the party’s state secretary to communicate the committee’s determination that Wyatt is the nominee to the state board of elections.
After the vote, Wyatt said he looked forward to bringing the GOP together to win the upcoming general election.
“Their decision stands within our party plan. We’re looking forward to November. We need to bring the party back together,” Wyatt said.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_
5 p.m. June 22: This story was updated with additional comment from Peace.
This story was originally published 3:35 p.m. June 22.