Dear Editor: If State Sen. Mark Herring of Loudoun prevails in the recount of this year’s historically close Virginia Attorney General race, he will be sworn-in next month. This would leave a vacancy in the 33rd Senatorial District, which both political parties will compete to fill. The Democrats selected their nominee on Nov. 23 and, on Dec. 16, the Republicans will have an opportunity to select their candidate. It is this upcoming Republican nomination process that is reinforcing my continued concern about our party’s political operating strategy.
The Republican Party leadership in the 33rd District has chosen to use a relatively restrictive, single location mass meeting on a weeknight to select its nominee. The mass meeting requires participants to arrive at this one location in a narrow window between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with voting starting promptly at 7:30 p.m. With rush-hour traffic on a Monday night in Northern Virginia, there is no telling if voters will make it in time.
A mass meeting is more restrictive than almost any other form of nomination. And it is certainly more restrictive than other local options, like firehouse primaries. A firehouse primary allows voters to choose from multiple locations over the course of several hours. The Democratic nominating event this year was a firehouse primary, and moreover it was held on a Saturday, not a Monday night. This open process allowed voters to vote at their convenience and maximized the number of citizens who wanted to participate.
When I think of the Republican Party—my party— I think of our pledge to work to improve the economy, create jobs, boost education, address our transportation needs and help keep Virginia the number one state in the country to do business. I think of a party that focuses on solving the problems that so many Virginians really care about.
I believe our conservative problem-solving approach can appeal to the majority of voters, and that we can continue to be very successful in governing. But to do this, we first have to win more elections. And to win elections, we must expand beyond our base and make our party more attractive to more people.
Unfortunately, selecting a restrictive Mass Meeting over a more open “firehouse” primary only serves to reinforce the perception that we are no longer Ronald Reagan’s successful “Big Tent” party interested in welcoming people and growing our ranks. If our party is the party of solutions, then we should do everything possible to include the largest number of people in the process. Gone should be the days of closed conventions and mass meetings.
We should work to open up all of our future nominating events to as many voters as possible. Let’s not be afraid of more voters participating—let’s embrace them. Let’s welcome voters to the party of solutions and move forward.
Del. Tag Greason (R-32), Ashburn