Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) late this afternoon formally designated a primary as his renomination method. But the party had already designated a convention for that, meaning the clash is likely headed to court…quickly.[read_more]
At issue, as we’ve written about before, is the Incumbent Protection Act (Va. Code 24.2-509) (the “IPA”), which allows incumbent General Assembly members to designate the method by which their respective political parties may decide the nomination for their seat. Federal court precedent in Virginia suggests very strongly that when the incumbent’s designation differs from that of the party itself (especially when the incumbent chooses a state-run open primary that allows participation of members of other parties), the law unconstitutionally infringes on the political party’s right to exclude non-members from its internal nomination processes.
The deadline for Hanger to make his designation was 5:00 PM today. We had suspected—wrongly, as it turns out—that given the 24th District Republican Committee had already designated a convention, Hanger might avoid making any designation, thus depriving potential challengers the chance to litigate the constitutionality of the law. In such a situation we surmised that it seemed more likely that Hanger would retire, following the example set by John Chichester when he faced similar circumstances in 2007.
Hanger had other ideas, and according to our sources, filed his paperwork with the State Department of Elections just before the deadline. This suggests Hanger and his allies in Richmond (lots of people have a vested interest in this law) think they have more than an outside chance of winning in court.
It should be interesting, to say the least. The timing of Hanger’s filing gives us a little preview of what is to come in what will undoubtedly be a fast-moving case if it is to be decided in time to give the decision immediate effect for this election. By filing just prior to the deadline, Hanger effectively deprived the putative plaintiffs here (the 24th Senate District Republican Committee) of the chance to get their suit filed today. So, score one minor tactical victory for the pro-IPA team.
I expect the plaintiffs will move quickly, likely tomorrow (though I do not have confirmation of that), to preserve as much ability to get a final order prior to the primary date as possible. We will continue to keep you informed.