Candidates make last-minute pitch as Virginia GOP convention looms

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 10:38 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Wednesday afternoon, it was political outsider meets political mainstay on stage in Lynchburg. The event, just outside the Liberty Mountain Conference Center, was one part of a seven-stop swing through the Commonwealth by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.

“He’s not a politician. He’s never run for office. He’s created jobs his whole life,” said Cruz.

The Youngkin-Cruz tour isn’t alone. Republicans are swinging across the state ahead of Saturday’s GOP convention. The convention - not a primary - will settle who gets the Republican nomination from a historically large field of candidates, not only for governor, but Lt. governor and attorney general too.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said WDBJ7 political analyst Dr. Bob Denton.

And as Denton points out, it’s not just the field that’s unprecedented. The convention is going to be unlike any other – in part, thanks to the number of delegates who’ve signed up to vote.

“Usually a convention you’ve got three to ten thousand,” he said. “But my goodness, here you’ve got 54,000 people who want to be delegates.”

Those delegates will gather at 39 sites around the Commonwealth.

And they won’t just be picking a single candidate for the job. Instead, they’ll use a system called ranked choice voting.

“Basically, when I vote, I don’t just vote for one person. I go for my first choice, second choice, third choice, fourth choice,” said Denton.

If one candidate gets more than 50% of those first-choice votes, the contest is over. If not, whomever has the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and the second choice votes are added to the tally. That process is repeated until one candidate has over 50% of the vote.

To make matters even more complicated, delegates votes aren’t all equal.

“They are weighted based on your locality, and how that locality voted Republican in 2020,” said Denton. “It becomes a mathematical challenge.”

As to whether the changes made this year will be permanent, Denton can’t say. Choosing how to nominate candidates, he points out, is almost as contentious as choosing who those candidates will be.

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