While Democratic candidates for statewide office have been circulating petitions to get on the primary ballot, their Republican counterparts have been criss-crossing Virginia, attending scores of mass meetings.
Their intense process of winning local voters doesn’t slow down until the end of April—but it won’t really be over until the GOP state convention.
GOP mass meetings have been—or will be—held in every locality from March through April. They’re not choosing candidates but are electing delegates to their mid-May state convention, which will choose their nominees. State party Communications Director Garren Shipley says it’s hard work for the candidates to find and draw in supporters everywhere.
“It brings the candidates almost to every single corner of the Commonwealth because you can’t just go to the big media markets and buy television ads. This is one-on-one retail politics. And the candidates who are going to do well at the convention are the ones who spend the most time out on the road, who make the most personal connections," says Shipley.
Shipley says delegates often agree to back one candidate, but there’s more to the story.
“I don’t know how well air quotes go over to radio, but there’s committing and then there’s ‘committing.’ There’s not a piece of paper that these folks sign that says, ‘I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, that I’m going to vote for Candidate X.’”
He adds that candidates also have to court the delegates who are there to back contenders for a different statewide office. Party officials say the meetings are open to all who want to help choose the GOP nominees.