The State Party Plan specifies the organization of the state party and how candidates will be selected. The 79-member State Central Committee sets the policy and plans for the party between larger State Conventions, which gather at least once every four years.
Candidates for elective office can be selected by (1) mass meetings, (2) party canvasses, (3) conventions, or (4) primaries. A mass meeting consists of a meeting where any participants must remain until votes are taken at the end. A party canvass or "firehouse primary" allows participants to arrive anytime during announced polling hours, cast a secret ballot, and then leave. A convention includes a process for selecting delegates, and then only the delegates may vote. Mass meetings, party canvasses and conventions are conducted by party officials and volunteers. Primaries are administered by the State Board of Elections at all established polling places. Because Virginia does not have party registrations, participation in primaries are open to any register voter regardless of party. However, on June 15, 2006, the Plan was amended to redefine a primary:
"Primary" is as defined in and subject to the Election Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, except to the extent that any provisions of such laws conflict with this Plan, infringe the right to freedom of association, or are otherwise invalid.
At the same time, the Plan was amended to require participants in any of the candidate selection methods to "express in open meeting either orally or in writing as may be required their intent to support all [Republican] nominees for public office in the ensuing election".
The candidate selection process has been criticised as favoring "party insiders" and disfavoring moderate candidates. For example, both Jim Gilmore and the more moderate Thomas M. Davis were seeking the 2008 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. However, two weeks following the decision that the candidate will be selected at a convention instead of a primary, Davis announced that he would not seek the nomination.
Virginia does not provide for voters to register by party. Virginia law requires "open" primaries that are not restricted based on party registration:
All persons qualified to vote... may vote at the primary. No person shall vote for the candidates of more than one party.
In 2004, the Republican Party amended the State Party Plan to attempt to restrict participation in primaries to exclude voters who had voted in a Democratic primary after March 1, 2004, or in the last five years, whichever is more recent. In August 2004, Stephen Martin, an encumbent State Senator, designated that the Republican candidate for his seat in the November 2007 election should be selected by primary. The Republicans then sued the State Board of Elections demanding that a closed primary be held, with taxpayer funding of a mechanism to exclude voters who had participated in past Democratic primaries.
The Federal District Court dismissed the suit on standing and ripeness grounds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and sent the case back for a trial on its merits. The District Court then ruled that the open primary statute was constitutional on its face, but was applied in a manner which severely limited the Republicans freedom to associate under the First Amendment of the Constitution. On October 1, 2007, the Fourth Circuit affirmed this holding apparently ending the Virginia open-primary system as unconstitutional.
The Republican State Central Committee dropped plans to require voters to sign a loyalty oath before voting in the February 2008 Presidential primary. The party had proposed to require each voter to sign a pledge stating "I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President." However, there was no way to enforce the pledge, and the proposal caused vocal public opposition.
The party headquarters building is named the Richard D. Obenshain Center in memory of Richard D. Obenshain (1936-1978), the State Party Chairman who beginning in 1972, helped lead the party's renaissance in Virginia following 85 years of virtual control by the State's Democratic Party (since Reconstruction when William Mahone and the Readjuster Party coalition dominated affairs for a few years).
In 1978, "Dick" Obenshain had won the party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Senator William Scott when the 42-year old candidate and two others were killed in an airplane crash of a twin engine aircraft on August 2, 1978 while attempting a night landing at the Chesterfield County Airport. They had been returning to Richmond from a campaign appearance.
Kate Obenshain Griffin of Winchester became the party's chairman in 2004. Following Senator George Allen's unsuccessful 2006 reelection bid, Griffin submitted her resignation as Chairman effective November 15, 2006. Her brother, Mark Obenshain, is a State Senator from Harrisonburg in the Virginia General Assembly. They are the children of the late Richard D. Obenshain.
Ed Gillespie was elected as the new Chairman of the RPV on December 2, 2006. He resigned on June 13, 2007 to become the counselor to President George W. Bush. Mike Thomas served as interim chairman until July 21 when former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia John Hager was elected chairman. On April 9, 2007 the RPV named Fred Malek to serve as the Finance Chairman and Lisa Gable to serve as the Finance Committee Co-Chair.
On May 31, 2008, Hager was defeated in his bid for re-election as chairman, by a strongly conservative member of the House of Delegates, Jeff Frederick of Prince William County. Frederick, 32 years old, is the 5th party chairman in 5 years.
Republicans lost control of the State Senate in the 2007 election, and narrowed their majority in the House of Delegates. The Democrats now have 21 Senate seats with one more being the subject of a possible recount. Republicans will hold a 7- or 8-seat majority in the House.
In addition, Tom Davis and Jim Gilmore were vying to seek the nomination to run for the United States Senate to succeed John Warner. Following the withdrawal of Davis, State Del. Robert G. Marshall challenged Gilmore for the nomination, as did Bob Berry. On May 31st 2008, Gilmore won the nomination by less than 70 weighted votes (as few as 10 people, depending on location).
Candidates from both parties are now gearing up for the 2009 Governor's race with Attorney General Robert McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, and former Governor and former Senator George Allen apparent candidates. Republican candidates for the 2009 Attorney General's race include Senators Mark D. Obenshain (Harrisonburg), Ryan T. McDougle (Hanover), and Ken Cuccinelli II (Fairfax), as well as Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville) and Arlington School Board member David Foster.
Although it is difficult to measure total fundraising contributions because money is donated to political action committees as well as directly to the parties, public records show that in 2007, the Virginia Republican Party has received $3,376,215 compared with $8,245,806 for the Democrats.
In 2006, a budget deadlock between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Republican-controlled Senate resulted in the legislative session extending far beyond its normal term as well as a special session.
As a part of the 2007 campaign, two Republican Delegates who are unopposed, C. Tood Gilbert and C.L. Athley Jr., are publicizing their investigation that Democratic leaders support radical Islamic organizations. These delegates report that the Muslim American Society and the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, both of which are located in Falls Church, Virginia, are connected to radical Islam, even though federal officials found no such connection. House Speaker William J. Howell has not sanctioned the Gilbert-Athley report, but the Speaker's staff has been helping distribute their findings to the media. Gilbert and Athley allege that the mosque is linked to terrorism because two of the September 11, 2001 hijackers had worshipped there in the months before the attack. But the FBI and the Presidential 9/11 Commission both concluded that the mosque had no role in the attacks. In response, Delacey Skinner, Governor Tim Kaine's communications director, stated that "Politics and campaigning have stooped to a new low when the governor of Virginia's efforts to reach out to people of all faiths and races is characterized as an association with terrorists."
In 2007, the need to fund $1 billion per year for pressing transportation projects resulted in another impass between the House of Delegates and Senate. Rather than approve additional tax increases, the final Republican plan, which was enacted into law, resulted in new fees of up to $3,000 for abusive drivers, which are assessed against Virginia residents in addition to the historic fines assessed on out-of-state drivers convicted of the same driving law violations. The Republican plan also called for issuing general obligation bonds which Democrats claim may reduce funding of non-transportation needs in future years. On 23 August 2007, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate responded to public opposition of the new fees by promising to moderate them in the 2008 legislative session.
State Del. Marshall (who is also a Republican U.S. Senate Candidate) challenged the constitutionality of the 2007 transportation plan in court. On February 29, 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court rule the plan to be an unconstitional delegation of the state legislature's powers to a separate transportation authority. Governor Tim Kaine called a special session of the legislature on June 23, 2008 to consider legislation in response to this decision. However, the Republicans in the House of Delegates blocked consideration of Kaine's proposal, and the session ended without any action to replace the revenues lost due to the court decision.
In anticipation of the November 2007 elections, where all of the House of Delegates and Senate seats were up for reelection, Republicans focused on illegal immigration and unveiled a proposal to prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and requiring sheriffs to check people's immingation status before releasing them from jail.
|Fred D. Thompson||3,493||0.73%|
On June 10, 2008, Republican congressional candidates will be selected in primary elections in the Eight and Tenth Congressional districts. The candidates are:
|8th C.D.||Mark Ellmore||Amit K. Singh|
|10th C.D.||Frank R. Wolf||Vern P. McKinley|
As of December 2007, Republicans hold one of Virginia's two seats in the U.S. Senate, eight of eleven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates. Additionally, Republicans serve as Virginia's Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.