This is a quick and dirty report from today’s Republican Party of Virginia (RPV)Convention. I’ve got lots of video and photos but am likely to fall asleep in the middle of this post so a barrage of partially coherent text is the most I can deliver tonight.
[Bearing Drift has a semi-complete report of vote totals].
The good news: Jeff Frederick trounced John Hager in the battle for RPV Chairman. Hager trotted out a long list of endorsements and short list of accomplishments and asked, basically, to be allowed to keep that ol’ sparkling positive momentum moving forward.
Frederick told the hard truth, that the Virginia GOP is on a serious losing streak, the public tide has long since turned against the party, and that a harsh reckoning was coming. We can make the change now, he said, or wait until we lose more elections and become a true minority party out in the wilderness, and then make the change. But the party is going to change one way or the other. He also said the very screwy events of yesterday, on which more later, would never occur again with him leading the RPV.
It was a pretty convincing speech, because no matter how many arrived intending to vote for Frederick, it was impossible to listen to his argument and not see immediately that there really was no other choice.
Because of the huge margin of defeat Hager apparently did not want the vote numbers released, and opted instead to nominate Frederick by acclamation. A friend of mine who stayed throughout the counting and saw many of the results said it appeared Frederick won at least 2/3 of the total votes. (Check the comments to this Virtucon post for final tallies for all the Districts in the Chairman race. Jeff Frederick indeed won convincingly.)
In the not-so-good-news department, I think a lot of people walked out of that Convention center thinking Bob Marshall had been robbed, the vote tally for nomination for the Senate seat was falsified, and that Jeff Frederick has just inherited a thugocracy. It was a very fishy chain of events.
Bob Marshall had a huge crowd of supporters and about double Jim Gilmore’s decibel level of cheering. His rousing speech reminded why we want a candidate who has formed his own positions and can articulate them masterfully.
First, as Blog Fu alludes to, the seating arrangements bespake the singular concept that “the Republican Party of Virginia is run by assholes.” The stage was at one end, with the districts seated in numerical order from the front of the room to the back. 1st District next to the stage, 11th District in the back of the room. Except that Gilmore’s and Hager’s home district, the 7th, was also right next to the stage. So the order of seating was 1st, 2nd, 7th, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th. Those of us in the 10th District were almost 50 yards from the stage. Ok, fine, so the Convention is slightly “weighted” toward two of the four candidates.
Then, here is how the vote tally process was conducted. All the ballots were issued and collected separately by each District chair, turned over to RPV staff who ran them through scanners under everyone’s watchful eyes, and then the straight numerical results were given back to the District chairs, who then had someone calculate by hand the “weighted” totals (different counties’ votes are worth different amounts). Here is the operation conducted by the 10th District guy doing the tallying:
This Gilmore – Hager supporter tallied the 10th District votes. This guy may have the wisdom of Solomon and ethics of Gandhi for all I know, but leaving him and all the other District talliers on an island to do all the calculations with no oversight or review seemed like a strange and overly loose protocal for choosing a U.S. Senate nominee.
I was going to make an abacus joke about this and rag on the low-tech nature of the process, but it’s not so much an abacus joke as a “ten thousand typing monkeys” joke. In this case the tallier, an obvious Gilmore supporter, was doing calculations in pen, running them through a calculator, scratching out results, starting over and redoing the operations. It took close to half an hour for him to come up with final numbers, and in the meantime many people stopped to look, incredulously. There was no oversight whatsoever, no opportunity for the other campaign to check the numbers, no independent authority verifying the numbers. This guy literally could have been pulling numbers out of thin air and no one would have been able to call him on it. The talliers CERTAINTLY could have made mistakes – which actually seems quite likely given the number of different calculation required. Someone asked 10th District Chairman Jim Rich about this extremely loose procedure and Rich replied that the fellow was Rich’s assistant who has done this many times, and that Rich trusts him. When the time came each District chair reported the numbers as unassailable gospel truth, and that was that.
When the Oscars are awarded each year, the vote tally is conducted by a third party and delivered to the awards ceremony under lock and key in the care of a company like Ernst and Young. If the RPV procedures were used, it would be the equivalent of the vote tally conducted and results delivered by Pixar Animation Studios.
So bear that in mind while considering how the vote reporting went. The Secretary came to the podium to call on each District chair to read their respective results, starting with the 1st District. They did so, until it came to the 7th District’s turn, and the chair announced “The 7th District will pass.” This elicited some vocal reactions from the audience, but the Secretary continued through the rest of the Districts, and then, at the very end, the 7th District chair read his results. The final tally gave Jim Gilmore a victory by 65.8 votes. The total was announced, Bill Bolling immediately called Bob Marshall to the podium to speak, and it was over.
A number of people, myself included, were dumbfounded that such a tiny margin of victory (65 out of 10,300 weighted votes) could be accepted so readily when the tallying process was so manifestly open to inaccuracies or, worse, manipulation. The 7th District talliers, a cynic might suggest, could have been keeping a running total, waited strategically until the very end, and then simply made up a vote total to ensure Gilmore of victory. There was no opportunity to challenge. I personally think it was a blunder on Bob Marshall’s part to not have asked for a roll call vote or other review of the ballots in the 7th District. I know that Bob Marshall is a stand up guy who would do the “honorable” thing for the greater good, and I am sure the Marshall campaign will never breathe a word about anything possibly untoward about the vote counting, but he left a lot of supporters from Loudoun County wondering “why was the RPV allowed to get away with that?” If Bob Marshall’s choice is to let it go, that’s fine. I’m a hothead; he clearly is not. But I hope he will at least give us another shot at getting him into the U.S. Senate.
I have video of much of the above and will post it in the next few days. I think it will demonstrate – especially when you see how the 7th District announced their vote totals – that this was a questionable series of events.
There were numerous reports that during yesterday’s Convention activities some more very questionable parliamentary moves (or, more accurately, “non-parliamentary moves”) took place, including Jim Rich getting Jo-Ann Chase bounced from the list of at large candidates to the Republican National Convention. These are just hearsay reports at this time and I hope to get more details, but today the rumors were swirling that RPV leadership was demonstrating that “a fix is in.” The final result in the Senate contest confirmed the rumors for many attendees. All in all, it seemed like a dirty affair.
Then, to top it off, the moment Bob Marshall left the stage after not quite conceding but announcing brightly that the task ahead is to “beat Mark Warner,” a very, very LOUD video promotion for Jim Gilmore was played, telling his life story and stretching over 10 minutes. This was annoying because everyone knew that the vote for RPV Chair still had to occur, so time was really starting to drag. But its annoyingness was nothing compared to Jim Gilmore following the video with a 20+ minute speech in which he did what Jim Gilmore does best, which is to deliver a litany of “conservative principle” cliches and tired phrases. Cherry on the sundae was a Ronald Reagan anectdote, reminding everyone that the types of folks who put the “lame” in “lame ass Republicans” were solidly in control of the Virginia GOP. I think Jim Gilmore and his “Let’s Pretend It’s 1999″ -themed campaign is going to get clobbered this fall. He definitely will not have a lot of the people at today’s Convention out working for him.
Jim Gilmore had something like 20 people give endorsements, “seconding” his nomination, which took forever, wasted our time, said nothing about his personal value but broadcasted loud and clear that business as usual is alive and well in the Virginia GOP. Every dog catcher in VA supports Jim! Yee Hah!
On a positive note, the asshats who WERE in charge of the RPV are no longer in charge. The second ballot of the day, in which Jeff Frederick triumphed overwhelmingly in the race for RPV Chair, may well turn out to be the more significant one. Someone observed that it seems quite incongruous that Frederick clobbered Hager and Marshall lost – when so many people had come with the express purpose of voting for both Frederick and Marshall. The insinuation was, they cheated on the Marshall ballots but could not cheat on both.
I honestly don’t know. But I do hope that having a good guy like Jeff Frederick leading the RPV will inspire some of the disaffected and newly cynical from the results of today’s Senate contest to get involved with the Virginia Republican Party and push the thugocracy aside. Jeff needs to do some housecleaning, and publicize it. With Jeff at the helm, there is real reason for hope, and maybe we can convince Bob Marshall to take another shot.
State Senator Ken Cuccinelli gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen Ken give in endorsing Bob Marshall for U.S. Senate. I hope to get the full audio and video posted soon. It can serve as a lasting reminder of why we need Bob Marshall in higher office.
UPDATE: Blog Fu weighs in on Bob Marshall’s future:
A year ago, Bob Marshall was a curious oddity in Virginia politics, a conservative leader who would rather have everyone hate him than compromise his principles. He is no longer an oddity. He is the voice of Virginia’s Republican future. When that realization sinks in within the compromise-on-anything Republican leadership of Virginia, this could cause a seismic shift in Republican politics, and completely transform the political landscape in Virginia.
It’s about time.