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The 11th District Convention Gets Crazy

By Greg L | 16 May 2012 | RPV, Fairfax County, Prince William County | 9 Comments

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.

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  1. NotChuckColgansAirplane said on 17 May 2012 at 7:39 am:
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    Thank you for your post. You always have interesting analysis on situations, and I find them enjoyable.

    However, I think you have one inaccuracy in your post. Apparently, there is an Official Ruling from RPV Counsel on this very issue stating that the language in the Call is non-binding because it does not belong there. Instead, the Ruling states that matters such as “Majority Vote/Plurality Vote” belong in the Convention Rules.

    As I was told yesterday, the 11th District Committee met Tuesday night and this ruling was presented. In essence, the Ruling makes this issue one for the Convention Rules Committee.

  2. Vote for Pedro said on 17 May 2012 at 10:36 am:
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    None of this would have happened if Keith Damon, Patsy Drain and David Ray hadn’t rigged the debate about majority vs. plurality by lying about whether the CR rep was a registered voter. They claimed he wasn’t and bullied him out of the vote. It was horseshit, of course, but that’s what they did to get their way.

    Too bad for them what they did wasn’t legal and they got called on it by RPV’s general counsel. You can’t determine vote rules in the call. The rules committee, from what I heard at the FCRC meting, was made up of people who were too nice to say no like everyone else has for being involved with this convention. Nobody wants to spend fifty hours in a gym on a spring Saturday so David Ray can find a meaning in life.

    If this gets the convention over faster, good.

    Besides, it’s not like the Ron Paulbots aren’t going to steam roll this convention like they did all the others. I feel bad for normal people going, it’s going to be an absolute shitshow. I think I’ll sleep in instead of wasting my time there sat.

  3. pprados said on 17 May 2012 at 12:05 pm:
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    I’ve been discussing this with Chris Farmer over at RedNova:


    Essentially, as the call is issued by the leadership as opposed to the Delegates at the convention, the rules for conduct of the convention can not be set in the call. The rules can also not be set by the rules committee. Only the delegates at the convention can set the rules.

    So we essentially will have proposed rules from a rules committee that are contrary to the understood, but non-binding, rules states in the convention Call.

    And I read, and reread the Call and RPV rules, as well as requested and read the RPV counsel opinion.

    Because delegates have ultimate control over the convention rules (as long as they don’t violate federal, or state law, or the RPV plan), conceivably any of us could even offer an amendment to the rules allowing for cumulative voting (talk about chaos) or instant runoff voting.

  4. Brian Schoeneman said on 17 May 2012 at 1:10 pm:
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    Paul’s reading is my reading as well. I was at the meeting we discussed this on Tuesday night, and the letter we got for Lee Goodman was pretty clear - only the convention can determine what the voting rules will be.

    While I wish this hadn’t happened at the last minute, we’ll see how things play out on Saturday.

    I don’t know what the impact is going to be on my race for National Delegate, if any. But I do support the idea of a quicker resolution. I have never thought long conventions are conducive to party building.

  5. James Young said on 17 May 2012 at 2:30 pm:
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    That’s quite surprising, as the model rules that were used many times since about 1994 were originally drafted by me, as Rules Committee Chairman and Parliamentarian, though I don’t know if they’re still being used as a starting point.

    Also disconcerting is your suggestion that the Rules Committee was “stacked,” since every Convention in which I’ve participated (well, except for the Tenth under Jim Rich) has had representatives from each campaign on convention committees, precisely to avoid the appearance of stacking the deck in contested races. Certainly, that’s how we did things in PWC for the Elections Committee this year. It’s the best way to avoid complaints (well, at least I’ve heard of none).

    In the first Eleventh District GOP Convention, in 1992, the vote for State Central Committee went to five ballots, if memory serves.

  6. Brian Schoeneman said on 17 May 2012 at 3:21 pm:
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    All of the candidates were given the opportunity to provide recommendations and volunteers to serve on the rules committee. To my knowledge, everyone suggested was accepted with the exception of one person, who was already serving in another volunteer capacity. I don’t know of anybody who was recommended and was turned away.

  7. Mike Giere said on 17 May 2012 at 9:19 pm:
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    Thanks for excellent post, Greg. Only one small correction. I’ve actually live in the 11th for 20 years - lived in the 8th for 5 years - and now I’m back in the 11th.

    See ‘ya Saturday! Mike Giere

  8. Brian W. Schoeneman said on 18 May 2012 at 2:26 pm:
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    The rules committee met last night and restored the rules package to be consistent with the one advertised in the call.

  9. Liz M. said on 18 May 2012 at 2:47 pm:
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    Thanks for your coverage of this Greg.

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