As Chairman of the Clarke County Republican Committee I will have to decide to support either an Open House Primary or a Party Run Process for the 2016 10th District Congressional nomination and it is highly likely this subject will be discussed and voted on at the August 19, 2015 10th District Meeting. I have been told our Congresswoman favors an Open Primary.
I believe Barbara Comstock has had an excellent freshman term as our Congressperson. While I don’t agree with every position she has taken, or every vote she has cast, I believe she has represented the 10th District well. She tirelessly reaches out to our community, is a strong supporter of our Party and unless something drastically changes I see no reason to replace her.
This opinion has absolutely no bearing on the nomination process I support.
I am against Open Primaries and support a Party Run Process.
My reasons are –
#1 – An Open Primary is an unfunded mandate on local governments. No monies are received from the State, Federal government, or political parties to subsidize it. With only 7 Precincts and 9,325 registered voters in Clarke County, it will cost my neighbors between $5,500 and $7,000 to hold an Open Primary. On average only 5% to 8% of registered voters participate so you could be talking $10.00 a vote! While I do not know the total cost of a 10th District wide Open Primary I can easily guess with 191 precincts it will be in excess of $250,000, probably much more.
The Republican Party of Virginia is a private organization. How can we morally expect taxpayers to pay for such an extravagant ‘Party’ function? I cannot in good conscience cast a vote forcing my neighbors to spend any of their hard earned money on something we are more than capable of handling ourselves.
For this reason alone I will not vote for an Open Primary.
#2 – Without party registration, Open Primaries allows Democrats to participate in our nominating process. When I first became Chairman of ClarkeGOP in 2012, we sent out a fundraising letter to what we thought would be hard core Republican supporters. We asked for a list from RPV of only those voters who had participated in three or more Republican Primaries. Out of 550 letters mailed, 50 of them–either through follow up phone calls or letters received–said they were Democrats and wanted to know how they got on our mailing list. Most hung up when we told them the source of our data. The bottom line – 10% of the most active voters in Republican Primaries in Clarke County have been Democrats.
Democrats should not be choosing Republican nominees.
#3 – Party relevance. Once an Open Primary is chosen the law is written the incumbent will be able to choose this method of their nomination in ensuing elections with no consultation with the committee. I believe we should be a party-centric organization that relies on representation from local party leaders, not candidate-centric, where one person can dictate the nomination process. Just as our Founders designed this great experiment called the United States of America with three branches of government, I believe the ability to choose a nomination method is part of our system of checks and balances.
Party Process: Firehouse vs. Convention?
Personally I prefer a Firehouse Primary (also called a canvass) over a Convention to nominate Political candidates. A Party Canvass allows more people to participate, is an excellent tool for collecting voter data and because it is a party-run process, it allows us to limit the participation of Democrat spoilers.
It is also the logical compromise between a Convention and an Open Primary.
Party Canvass (Firehouse Primary)
Two years ago we held a very successful Party Canvass, aka Firehouse Primary, in the 10th Congressional District. Throughout the 10th District 13,609 people turn out on a mid-April day to elect Barbara Comstock with a majority of votes in a six-person race. This Firehouse Primary had a higher turned out in the 10th District than the previous year’s Open Primary to choose the Democrat Lieutenant Governor nomination.
In Clarke County we had 480 people participate in our 2014 Party-run Firehouse Primary. Compare this to previous Republican Open Primaries; June 2012 only 469 people voted, August 2011 – 246 voted and June 2007 – 562 people voted. Our Firehouse Primary had only 1 polling station open for 5 hours compared to Open Primaries having 7 polling stations open for 13 hours!
Can the 10th District afford to hold a Firehouse Primary?
In 2014 it cost the 10th District Republican Committee about $25,000 to hire a company to man 10 polling stations with optical scanner voting machines. Since then most jurisdictions have bought these scanners. Clarke County has 11. The question I have been asking these past couple of days, “Why don’t we borrow them from the local governments?” The answer received. “No one has asked.”
On average it costs $1,400 to reprogram all the balloting machines in Clarke County so it can’t cost much more to program the dozen or so machines needed for our Firehouse Primary. Ballots are $0.35 each so add on $5,250 and maybe another $5,000 to rent polling locations and other expenses. If done right the total expenses for a 10th District Firehouse Primary should not exceed $15,000.
We are not starting out empty handed. To begin with we are legally allowed to charge each candidate $6,960.00, or 4% of the yearly salary of a Congressperson, to file as a candidate. If we only have two candidates file, this will bring in a minimum of $13,920.00. If we have a contested race maybe we can ask Rob Wasinger if he would like to run again and turn it into a fundraiser.
My bottom line is: We, as fiscally responsible Republicans, should not have our local governments pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a private political party process we are more than capable of running ourselves. If you agree please contact your local unit chairman before next Wednesday.
In closing, I am saddened by a comment made to me, “If you don’t support the Open Primary process you can kiss your chances of becoming a State Central Committee member good bye.” So be it. If I roll over on one of our core Republican principles like fiscal responsibility, I don’t deserve to be on State Central.