Recent events in Va-1 are revealing the problems that conventions can cause in general-and in particular when operating on a short schedule for a special election.
The Jim Bowden campaign notes shenanigans at the Caroline County Mass Meeting yesterday. A little investigation reveals that the mass meeting was held on the day listed in the call, but not at the announced site and not at the announced time. I have not yet ascertained why this happened. It does mean that the 9 delegate votes for Rob Wittman are potentially no good. Changing announced meeting time and place is a violation of RPV rules. This could turn into a matter for the Convention Credentials Committee, which means it could also be a matter to be decided in a floor vote-which makes for even more confusion.
In other places, apparently the Newport News GOP put out a late call for pre-filing registration deadline of 1700 tonight-and candidates got the news as late as yesterday evening.
Now I have posted early and often about the drawbacks of a convention. Others have suggested conventions are better than primaries because candidate resources are saved for the general, and there is far less risk of crossover voting. Fair enough, these are reasonable concerns. My experience says that the infighting of a convention, both on the floor and at a mass meeting, with the impact on manpower in the fall, outweighs the cost savings.
We are seeing in Va-1 some of the reasons that ill-will is created in the convention process. Administrative errors that violate party rules are bad. Administrative errors that prevent people from participating are worse, and when the same causes ill will it gets-as my four year old says-“worser and worser”.
The drawbacks of a convention for a statewide campaign are somewhat mitigated by the length of time the process takes. More care is given to organizing meetings, and the extra time available allows for compromises, negotiations, and even do-overs. Using a convention for a special election…especially one running on a short schedule and over a large geographic area (as opposed to a House of Delegates special election)…creates the potential for the same problems exacerbated by the shortened time line.
A firehouse primary would have been a better choice in Va-1, with the primary on 11.10.2007. They are already setting up mass meeting sites, so setting up firehouse primary polling sites in each jurisdiction shouldn’t be much more difficult.
Innocent mistake in Caroline, or chicanery? My experiences suggests the latter. At the very least, it is another argument against using a convention above the General Assembly level in a contested race.
Meanwhile-back at the practical level of this year’s election…if in fact there was chicanery, the next question is whether Wittman and anyone else who benefitted from yesterday’s events is willing to fix the problem or will choose instead to benefit from the tomfoolery-and in doing so create an ethics issue for both the nominating convention and for the general election.
UPDATE 11/5/2007: I continue to hear strange things about the Caroline County meeting. A reporter emailed to me indirectly that the meeting occured at the announced location-but since they did not mention time I can only assume the time was off. This may seem slim pickings, but the Jim Bowden campaign has not backed off saying that the goings on potentially violated the state plan. Hopefully after election day (tomorrow) I will have a trace to trackback for further details.