ROANOKE — Republicans in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District are postponing their convention contest between Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson, and Bob Good.
The 5th Congressional District Republican Committee — composed of local party leaders in Central Virginia — decided to delay the convention originally scheduled for April 25 after two hours of discussion on a phone call Sunday night. The committee is trying to figure out how to choose a party nominee while also taking the safety of voters into consideration as the coronavirus sweeps through Virginia.
The committee hasn’t selected a new date, but members said the end of May would be the earliest possible time it would hold a convention.
Riggleman is seeking a second term representing Virginia’s largest congressional district, which stretches from Fauquier County to the North Carolina border and includes Franklin County and part of Bedford County. Whoever emerges as the nominee will face a Democrat in November. Democrats are using a primary, now scheduled for June 23, to pick their nominee.
The Republican committee is preparing a lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Elections to try to extend the June 9 date it has to file the name of its party nominee to the department. The committee is aiming to hold its convention before then, but it wanted to have that buffer time in case circumstances change because of the uncertainty around the coronavirus.
Virginia is under a state of emergency, and Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order that will go through June 10.
In the meantime, the committee is going to proceed with planning a convention while following government orders and ensuring safety measures are in place. The Virginia GOP’s governing State Central Committee is scheduled to meet Saturday and is expected to discuss the scheduled conventions — there’s another one in the 7th District to the east.
A majority of the committee members favored sticking with a nomination method that most resembled a convention. Conventions are a common method Republicans use to pick congressional nominees. The process is limited to a small number of voters, allowing faithful party activists to ensure ideological purity.
Riggleman favored a primary, a method that expands the number of voters who can participate. His supporters made an attempt Sunday to have the committee consider a primary as an alternative to a convention, but the committee rejected that proposal.
Riggleman is facing tough competition from Good, a former athletics official at Liberty who has attracted support among party activists. Good, who sits on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, has said Riggleman has “betrayed the trust of the Republican conservative base” in the district.
Committee Chairman Melvin Adams urged people at the end of the meeting to be united throughout this process, regardless of which candidate they support.
“We have to be united,” he said. “We’re all a part of this committee. We have to unite around the decisions of this committee. We can’t continue to have public dissent.”