I get that candidates in a convention are going to try to make the rules as favorable to them as possible. That’s simply part of the political game. What I don’t get is when an incumbent district chairman is reported to have made a last-minute change in the rules that contradicts what was specified in the convention call. That’s not going to stand at a convention, and just makes the chairman look really, really bad.
Becky Stoeckl’s re-election effort in the 11th District wasn’t supposed to be difficult. Mike Giere, who is handicapped by being new to the District challenged her, as did Terry Wear who has more history in the 11th but isn’t someone you’d expect to set that many folks on fire. Splitting the attention of the folks that might want a change in the district makes it easier for an incumbent to hold on, and for quite a while that seemed to be happening. In a convention with this dynamic, it’s likely the incumbent squeezes by with more than 50% on the first ballot, and the game is over.
Giere and Wear both seemed to gain a lot more traction than conventional wisdom would otherwise suggest and as far as I can tell all of the candidates are running roughly equal with each other, with Giere a bit ahead of Wear and Stoeckl a bit ahead of Giere. A poll over at RedNOVA seems to generally confirm this. In this scenario, on the first ballot Wear would be dropped out, making the second ballot a two-person race between Giere and Stoeckl (if the lowest ranking candidate is forced to withdraw) and Wear’s delegates would most likely break strongly in favor of Giere since he’s a challenger. The convention call for the 11th doesn’t require that the lowest vote-getter drop out, but in an attempt to not stay at a convention forever, usually delegates pretty quickly abandon the losers and pick a winner to support (or get fed up and leave), and that would produce the same result, only it might take a bit longer.
Normally in a situation like this, an incumbent would work harder reaching out to delegates to tip the balance and polish up one heck of a floor speech for the convention, hoping that some extra hard work changes the equation. Experience usually teaches experienced political types that if you’re behind, it’s because you’re not working hard enough. It usually also tells them that if they think they might be ahead, they’re still not working hard enough. I’ve seen that work plenty of times, and it’s definitely the “high road” approach to electioneering and one that is universally appreciated.
The reports coming out today indicate that the convention’s Rules Committee, one that has been pretty much established by the incumbent, is making a last-minute change where only a plurality of delegate votes are required rather than a majority. This is something that would most definitely benefit Stoeckl and be nearly unprecedented for conventions. If the votes come down as I’d expect they would, Stoeckl would win a narrow plurality of votes and the election would be over. Same delegates, same candidates, but different rules and you get different results.
A key problem with this rule change is that the convention call issued previously specifically states the following:
Election to all offices and of all nominees shall be by majority vote. Upon completion of the first ballot, if any contest shall not have been decided by majority vote, it shall be in order to proceed immediately to a second ballot to decide the remaining contests. Subsequent ballots shall be so conducted until all contests have been decided by majority vote. There shall be no requirement for any candidate to withdraw in any contest prior to the final ballot for that contest. Balloting shall not begin before 11:45 AM.
The official call for a convention is an authoritative document for the convention, cleared by RPV (and if necessary the Justice Department), and the one element of a convention that cannot be legally altered by the convention or any of the committees that serve it. The rules committee for this convention simply cannot make rules changes that conflict with the convention call and even suggesting that this should be done looks absolutely horrible. It really starts to look like a “win at any cost” kind of tactic that risks disaffecting enough delegate supporters that the candidate trying to make this happen can even easily end up on the losing side of a plurality vote even if one is allowed.
I know and personally like very much both Becky Stoeckl and Mike Giere and it pains me to see these two friends go head-to-head where only one of them can prevail. It pains me even more to hear reports that one of these friends may be resorting to some really unwise convention tactics to try to win, tactics that I would advise are entirely unproductive and downright dangerous for a committee. I’ve little doubt that the small firestorm brewing here is going to be resolved by RPV quickly and the kibosh put on this last minute change. Lacking that, the convention will most likely reject such a rule change as long as the opposing arguments are presented fairly and effectively.
If you’re a delegate to the 11th District convention on Saturday, please take some time to read the call (again, here’s a link) as well as the RPV Party Plan, especially the parts about the conduct of a convention, convention calls, and the requirements for participation in Republican Party activities. If there is a debate about what rules should govern the convention the more you know about what the governing rules are, the easier it will be to quickly cut through any BS and cast an informed an intelligent vote about how the convention should be run.
In the end the only thing standing between fairness and raw power at a convention is you, the delegate. Knowledge is your weapon, and you don’t want to wade into that battle unarmed. Be smart, vote well, and may the best candidates win.
UPDATE: RedNOVA is reporting that the Rules Committee has reversed its decision. That’s a welcome development.
UPDATE 2: Terry Weir wins the chairman’s race. Becky lost on the first ballot.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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