|Governor of Virginia||Glenn Youngkin|
|Lieutenant Governor of Virginia||Winsome Sears|
|Senate Minority Leader||Tommy Norment|
|Speaker of the House of Delegates||Todd Gilbert|
|House Majority Leader||Terry Kilgore|
115 E. Grace St.
Richmond, Virginia 23219
|Political position||Center-right to right-wing|
|National affiliation||Republican Party|
|Statewide Executive Offices|
3 / 3
19 / 40
|House of Delegates|
52 / 100
0 / 2
|U.S. House of Representatives|
4 / 11
|Fairfax County Board of Supervisors|
1 / 10
The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) is the Virginia chapter of the Republican Party. It is based at the Richard D. Obenshain Center in Richmond.
The party was established in 1854 by opponents of slavery and secession in the commonwealth, with the newly-chartered state chapter first sending its own among over 600 delegates to the 1856 Republican National Convention. However, the Virginia delegates ultimately abstained from casting ballots for president, instead casting ballots for William L. Dayton for vice-president; both candidates were defeated in the general by Democrats James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge. Virginia's delegates to the 1860 convention were initially split between a majority for Abraham Lincoln and a minority for Simon Cameron in the first and second ballots, with delegates settling on Lincoln on the third ballot for president, and voted for Cassius M. Clay for vice-president on the first and second ballots (with Clay being defeated in the convention by Hannibal Hamlin). While John Bell and Edward Everett of the Constitutional Union Party, a party of conservative former Whigs who supported slavery but opposed secession, carried Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Lincoln and Hamlin eventually won the presidential election.
Virginia Republicans were active in fighting for the Union side in the American Civil War, and helped lead the formation of the Restored Government of Virginia as well as the secession of what became the state of West Virginia. Republicans Francis Harrison Pierpont and Daniel Polsley were respectively elected the governor and lieutenant governor of the Restored Government, with Pierpont eventually taking power as the de-facto governor of Virginia after the previous Democratic governor William Smith was removed from office and arrested. Two more Republicans would hold office for governor, Henry H. Wells and Gilbert Carlton Walker.
Republican fortunes turned downward as the Redeemer movement gathered apace and the Reconstruction era ended. A brief upturn occurred when William Mahone formed the Readjuster Party, a bi-racial populist coalition of Democrats and Republicans which held its height of power from 1870 to 1883. After the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1902, which drafted and promulgated a new constitution which disfranchised almost all African-Americans in the commonwealth, the Republican Party ceased to be an effective political party in Virginia.
The party reached its nadir of representation in the General Assembly, reaching handfuls of representation in either chamber and in the U.S. House until after 1964. Historically, from the late 19th into the mid-20th centuries, the 9th and 2nd congressional districts were the friendliest terrain for Republicans in the state (and some of the friendliest in the former Confederacy), encompassing areas which border West Virginia. Virginia Republicans managed to help Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis win the 1928 election, but would only regain their statewide competitiveness after Dwight Eisenhower carried the state in 1952. Linwood Holton would be elected in 1969 as the first Republican governor of Virginia in the 20th century, inaugurating an era of competitive elections between the two major parties.
Republicans are the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the minority in the Senate, and four of the state’s eleven U.S. House seats are held by Republicans. As of 2022, they hold the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General as well as full control of the House of Delegates.
Both of Virginia's U.S. Senate seats have been held by Democrats since 2008. John Warner was the last Republican to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. First elected in 1978, Warner opted to retire instead of seeking a sixth term. Former Governor Jim Gilmore ran as the Republican nominee in the 2008 election and was subsequently defeated by Democratic challenger Mark Warner who has held the seat since.
Out of the 11 seats Virginia is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives, four are held by Republicans:
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. Both 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 H. 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 at a statewide GOP convention by a strongly conservative member of the House of Delegates, Jeff Frederick of Prince William County. Frederick, who was then 32 years old, was the fifth party chairman in five years. On April 4, 2009, Frederick was removed from the position by RPV's State Central Committee, in a move backed by most of the senior GOP establishment. Many argued that Frederick's election and later removal was a war within the party between insiders and outsiders, or grassroots versus establishment Republicans. After his removal, Frederick considered seeking the chairman job again at the party's May 2009 convention, but decided against it. Pat Mullins, who was then the chairman of the Louisa County party unit and formerly the chairman of the Fairfax County party unit, was selected on May 2, 2009, to serve in the interim before a special election at state party convention later that month. Mullins won the special election at the May 30, 2009, convention, defeating Bill Stanley, the Franklin County chairman. Mullins was re-elected at the party's June 2012 convention. Mullins announced his retirement on November 5, 2014, a day after the Virginia GOP had a strong showing in the 2014 elections. 10th District Republican Committee chairman John Whitbeck was elected on January 24, 2015, by the party's State Central Committee to serve out the remainder of Mullins's term.
Whitbeck faced a challenge for the chairmanship for the 2016 election at the party's state convention from Vince Haley, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for state senate in the 12th state Senate district in 2015. Haley withdrew his candidacy in early 2016, then tried to re-enter before the convention. At the convention, the party nominations committee ruled that Haley did not qualify to seek the office, and Whitbeck was re-elected unopposed to a full four-year term. Whitbeck resigned from his position on July 21, 2018, due to differences with Corey Stewart, the party's nominee for U.S. Senate in that year's race for U.S. Senate. In September 2018, Jack R. Wilson, the party's 4th Congressional District Chairman since 2007 and a lawyer from Chesterfield County, was elected to fill the balance of Whitbeck's term.
The current chairman is former Delegate Rich Anderson, who was elected to a four-year term on August 15, 2020.
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 criticized 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 incumbent 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 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 rule forcing a party to accept the choice of its incumbent office holder of an open primary was unconstitutional. The state could continue to hold open primaries if a party opted for a primary instead of a mass meeting, party canvass, or convention to choose its nominees. On October 1, 2007, the Fourth Circuit affirmed this holding, which largely left Virginia's primary system intact, striking down only the rule allowing an incumbent officeholder to choose an open primary over the objection of his or her party.
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.
At a March 20, 2014 meeting, John Ferguson defeated Leslie Williams to become Chair of the Campbell County Republican Committee. Williams unsuccessfully challenged the meeting before the county committee and the Fifth Congressional District Republican Committee. However, the State Central Committee overturned the vote on the grounds that school teachers and public employees participated in the meeting and that they must have been Democrats. In response, Ferguson and the other party officials that were elected filed a lawsuit to block a new mass meeting to fill the seats.
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 95 years of virtual control by the State's Democratic Party.
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.
Over one million voters participated in the 2016 Virginia Republican presidential primary. Donald Trump placed first with 35% of the vote, followed by Marco Rubio (32%), Ted Cruz (17%), John Kasich (10%), and Ben Carson (6%). The party held its quadrennial convention in Roanoke and elected 13 at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention, 10 of which pledged to support Ted Cruz in the event of a contested convention. In the general election, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump 50% to 45%.
In the 2016 United States House of Representatives elections in Virginia, the Republicans lost one seat but maintained a 7-4 majority in their representative delegation.
In 2017, the party nominated Ed Gillespie for governor, Jill Vogel for lieutenant governor, and John Adams for attorney general via an open primary. All three lost to their Democratic opponents. Gillespie lost to Ralph Northam by a margin of 8.93%.
The Republican Party lost 15 seats in the 2017 Virginia House of Delegates election. This resulted in the Republicans going from a 66-34 majority to a 51-49 majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.
In 2018, incumbent Democratic senator Tim Kaine defeated Republican Corey Stewart by a margin of 16% in the 2018 United States Senate election in Virginia. The party also lost three seats in the House of Representatives elections, giving Democrats a 7-4 majority.
In 2019, the party lost their majorities in the House of Delegates and State Senate. Democrats gained two seats in the 2019 Virginia Senate election, giving them a 21-19 majority. Democrats gained six seats in the 2019 Virginia House of Delegates election, giving them a 55-45 majority.
In 2020, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by 10.11%. Both parties maintained their seats in the 2020 United States House of Representatives elections in Virginia. Incumbent Democratic senator Mark Warner defeated Republican challenger Daniel Gade by 12.1% in the 2020 United States Senate election in Virginia.
In 2021, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin defeated former governor Terry McAuliffe by a 51%-48.5% margin. The GOP nominees for Lieutenant Governor, Winsome Sears, and Attorney General, Jason Miyares, also won their respective races. This was the first time Republicans won a statewide election in the Commonwealth since 2009. The party gained seven seats in the House of Delegates to have a majority of 52-48, with Todd Gilbert as the new Speaker of the House. These races were seen as a crucial bellwether for the 2022 midterms, as they took place during a period of low approval for President Joe Biden.
Prior to the January 6 joint session of the United States Congress to certify Joe Biden's win, Republican Delegates Dave LaRock (Loudon), Mark Cole (Fauquier), and Ronnie Campbell (R-Lexington) sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to nullify Virginia's electoral results. Democratic Speaker of the House Elieen Filler-Corn punished the members by stripping them of their committee assignments.
Republican 2021 candidate for Governor Sen. Amanda Chase attended the rally prior to the January 6 storming of the United States Capitol. After the riot that left one person dead, party chairman Rich Anderson said in a statement "I and Virginia Republicans across our great Commonwealth condemn these despicable acts without reservation or hesitation."
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker quickly condemned the Republican officials, saying "The Republican Party has made their disdain for democracy clear, and every elected GOP official has been complicit."
In December 2020, the State Central Committee voted to choose its candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General by convention, not by a primary. Candidate Sen. Amanda Chase threatened to run as an independent, but quickly backtracked and said she would reluctantly participate in a convention. The State Central Committee has held several meetings to reconsider the decision to hold a convention.
At a January 2021 State Central Committee meeting, Party Chairman Rich Anderson called the Party Headquarters in Richmond a "literal ghetto. Democrats and other Republicans criticized him for the choice of words, while he defended himself by pointing out that “ghetto has nothing to do with race” and that he had only been referring to the building, not the neighborhood."
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