Virginia GOP primary exposes campaign truths


The Republican Party in Virginia required candidates to jump through some hoops if they wished to have a crack at the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention that will choose the Party’s nominee for president. Some big names did not make the cut – including Rick Perry and Virginia resident Newt Gingrich. An election attorney who worked on Perry’s challenge commented on the matter, noting that candidates should make sure they have a strong ground game – it isn’t all about TV ads and TV debate appearances.

Lee E. Goodman of LeClairRyan, who represented the Republican Party of Virginia when Perry challenged it’s primary qualification process, said that it is likely that his client over-reached, and Perry’s challenge exposed the weak points of the system it set up.

However, the challenge also exposed the weakness of Perry’s campaign, which wasn’t prepared to contest the state and waited until the last moment to challenge the rules.

Goodman noted, “First, for states and election administrators, Governor Perry’s legal team exposed a weakness in Virginia’s election laws. Residency requirements and similar burdens to ballot access are constitutionally suspect. States should study each and every condition they impose upon ballot access to ensure it is absolutely necessary to advance the government’s interests. Too often, burdens on ballot access become stale, and each state should reconsider its legal burdens, including Virginia.”

“Second,” he continued, “for lawyers who would challenge state laws, Governor Perry’s lawsuit proved that you cannot wait until the eleventh hour to craft post-hoc legal theories to fix every mistake made by your political team. If you wait until the eleventh hour, the die will be cast and courts are loath to upset an election in progress.”

Goodman concluded, “Third, the important lesson for campaigns is that you cannot run solely on the air, by appearing at televised debates. The failure of some candidates to qualify for Virginia’s ballot is symptomatic of organizational weaknesses in their campaigns. You must have an organization on the ground that is competent and detail-oriented to win an election, and ballot access is only the first test of a political organization.”