By Jim EllisMay 12, 2021 — Glenn Youngkin officially captured the Virginia Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this week on the second day of ranked choice vote counting.
Early in the sixth tabulation round the other remaining participant from the original field of seven, businessman Pete Snyder, conceded the nomination when state Sen. Amanda Chase’s (R-Midlothian) second choice votes began to be dispersed. Chase was eliminated from further competition after the fifth round, finishing third overall.
Youngkin led in all the voting rounds, and even as early as the end of round two little evidence surfaced to suggest anything would occur through the ranking process to deny him winning the gubernatorial nomination.
The international investment executive, who, like Snyder, spent several million dollars to advertise around the state on electronic media for a closed convention with a universe of 53,000-plus delegates, will very likely face former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe once the traditional Democratic primary concludes on June 8.
Understanding the voting trends from the past several elections, McAuliffe, assuming he is nominated in the party primary where he has consistently appeared as the prohibitive favorite, will begin the general election campaign with a major advantage.
Though more than 53,000 people had registered as delegates, the actual turnout was considerably less. Due to the manner in which votes are being reported and the weighting formula governing the ballots, the raw number of people attending the drive-thru formatted convention is not obvious. Only 12,557 weighted votes were reported.
Using a ranked choice voting system where individuals tiered their gubernatorial choices from 1-7, the participants’ tallies were then weighted by unit. According to the official party statement, each unit has a fixed number of delegate votes. The formula to determine each candidate’s weighted vote is the number of ballots received divided by the total ballots cast and then multiplied by the number of assigned delegate votes to the particular unit.
The party officials claimed the formula best reflected the Republican voting areas of strength. One of the candidates, Sen. Chase, accused the party officials of “rigging” the convention for Snyder, and it is this weighting system that raised her ire. In the end, she either proved incorrect or the party officials failed to properly “rig” the vote.
Others questioned the drive-thru convention approach versus holding a primary after the party spent months determining if they would go to convention or schedule a traditional statewide vote. One could concede the argument that holding a “convention” where people wait in their cars in one of only 39 sites around the state was not inducive to attract new voters. Considering the Virginia Republicans are now in a decided majority, many believe restricting the number of people eligible to decide the statewide nominations did little to build and expand the party base.
The attorney general’s race was also decided, and we will likely see the lieutenant governor results later this week. State Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) defeated attorney Chuck Smith, 52-48 percent, in the AG’s contest. He will face the Democratic winner in November, likely either incumbent Mark Herring or state Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk).
Herring, who was involved in his own blackface controversy soon after Gov. Ralph Northam’s exposé early in his term, is facing a strong challenge from Jones who has earned the governor’s public endorsement.
Should Herring survive the primary, which is likely despite his baggage, the attorney general’s campaign could become the most competitive race on the ballot. Delegate Miyares, whose mother was a Cuban refugee when she escaped to America, is a compelling candidate and well positioned to run a credible November campaign.
The Virginia governor’s race is one of two in 2021. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) defends his position also in a June 8 primary and Nov. 2 general election. These two races could well set the tone for the following 36 gubernatorial campaigns that we will see unfold in 2022.