- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2001

After Saturday, the Virginia governors race will finally be mano a mano.
Virginia Republicans will meet in Richmond tomorrow and Saturday to choose between Lt. Gov. John H. Hager and Attorney General Mark L. Earley as their partys candidate in Novembers gubernatorial race against Democrat Mark R. Warner. The party faithful will also choose nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general, though the candidates for those posts are running unopposed.
Going into this weekends contest Mr. Earley has the lead in the nomination race. Delegates to the convention this year were asked when they filed if they preferred Mr. Earley or Mr. Hager. Mr. Earley had 48.1 percent of filers support, Mr. Hager had 38.2 percent, and the rest didnt state a preference.
But those preferences arent binding at the convention, and Mr. Hager hopes to capture enough of the undecided delegates and sway enough of Mr. Earleys delegates to win a majority.
To that end, hes sent out several letters from his conservative backers challenging Mr. Earleys conservative credentials.
"Why do the national conservative leaders all support John Hager? What about the difference in the track record, which is significant? What type of person do Virginians want to lead us into the next early stages of the new century?" Mr. Hager said in a brief interview yesterday. "What is the issue? The issue is electability, the issue is beating Mark Warner."
Both campaigns say the contest now comes down to which candidate can motivate his supporters to turn out on Saturday, when the actual vote takes place.
More than 26,000 Virginians registered to come to the convention being held at the Richmond Coliseum, but Republican officials expect that many of the delegates from far-away regions wont feel like traveling to Richmond. They expect roughly 10,000 delegates to show up.
By comparison, the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles had about 5,500 delegates and alternates, and the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia had 4,132 delegates and alternates.
The 1978, 1993 and 1994 events each set a new record for the largest political convention in American history.
At the 1978 convention, which drew 9,000 delegates, it took six votes before Richard D. Obenshain topped ex-Navy Secretary John W. Warner, former Gov. Linwood Holton and state Sen. Nathan Miller for the nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. Two months after the convention, Mr. Obenshain died in a plane crash and Mr. Warner, the convention runner-up, became the nominee and election winner.
The 1993 convention attracted 13,100 delegates to nominate George F. Allen for governor and James S. Gilmore III for attorney general. At that convention Mike Farris, a Loudoun County-based lawyer who now heads the Home School Defense Association, won the lieutenant governors nomination largely on the support of the 4,000 delegates he bused to Richmond — many of whom had never been politically active before.
The 1994 convention still holds the record for largest convention in history. It drew 14,000 delegates to Richmond to choose Iran-Contra figure Oliver North over former Reagan Budget Director Jim Miller for the right to face embattled incumbent Sen. Charles S. Robb.
Mr. North had more delegate votes at the convention, but he was afraid of having them throw their support to Mr. Miller on the convention floor, so his campaign came up with a strategy for keeping the audience captive. They instructed supporters not to accept any papers or fliers floating about — those were bound to be from the Miller campaign —and instead bring radios. The North campaign set up a radio station that broadcast inside the convention hall and held their supporters attention enough to give Mr. North the nomination.
Nobody expects those sorts of fireworks at this years event, but party officials and both campaigns say theyre still preparing for anything.
The nomination process itself is convoluted. The votes are divvied up by county or city, based on the localitys population but also on how reliably Republican the area is. Norfolk, with more than 250,000 people, has 156 delegate votes; Loudoun County, which is smaller, counts for 254 delegate votes.
Each delegate vote can be divided up to five ways if enough people register. So if in Westmoreland — which is allotted 20 delegate votes — all 30 delegates registered for the convention show up, each will be worth two-thirds of a delegate vote. But by the same rules, in Manassas Park — which is allotted nine delegate votes — each of the six registered delegates is worth 1 1/2 delegate votes.


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