By Joe Beck
The Virginia 10th District Republican Committee plans to use a party canvass on April 26 to choose a candidate for Congress.
The decision ends weeks of speculation about what method the GOP would use in finding a candidate to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Vienna.
The canvass, described by one party leader as a cross between a convention and primary, allows participants to cast secret ballots at a few locations spread throughout the district. Heavily populated Fairfax and Loudoun counties will both have two voting locations. The remaining counties and jurisdictions of Frederick, Clarke, Prince William, Manassas, Manassas Park and one other undetermined community will each have one voting location. The exact locations have yet to be chosen.
John Whitbeck, chairman of the 10th District Republican Committee, said he wanted a nominating process that would produce the candidate with the best chance of keeping the seat in Republican hands in what is widely expected to be a competitive election with national implications for both parties.
"It is critical that Republicans are united as quickly as possible and focused on the Nov. 4 election," Whitbeck said in a written statement. "There was significant discussion regarding the state run primary, but doing an earlier process before the Democrats gives our candidate a significant advantage in terms of fundraising and organizing for the general election.
"A state-run primary also would be a much larger drain on the nominee's resources. These are some of the issues that led the committee in this direction."
Republicans have been at odds over whether to choose candidates through conventions or primaries since a conservative slate of statewide candidates led by former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli Jr. emerged as the winners from a party fight at a convention in the months before the 2013 general election. Cuccinelli lost the governor's race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general also were defeated.
Some party members blamed the defeat on the party convention that helped the most conservative candidates win the nomination but who were considerably weaker in the general election.
Beau Correll, chairman of the Winchester Republican Committee and one of those who participated in the nominating process meeting, said Monday that he favored a convention.
"I would have preferred a convention because the attendees can see the candidates speak and not just communicate through direct mail," Correll said. "The issue was finding a place with enough capacity, so I view the canvass as a legitimate compromise."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org