Supporters of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are quietly working behind the scenes to elect members to the state GOP’s governing board who support holding a convention for 2013 governor’s race.
The State Central Committee already decided to hold a primary — not a convention — to select the party’s gubernatorial nominee back in October.
But contests are being held across Virginia to elect new representatives to the 81-member board — a prime opportunity for Cuccinelli supporters to look for people who favor a convention.
Cuccinelli, who is running against Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in the primary, has long backed conventions. Many political watchers believe he would be more likely to win the nomination in that kind of contest because he has strong support among the party faithful. Bolling has long favored primaries.
Gary C. Byler, a lawyer and longtime Republican activist from Virginia Beach who leads the party’s 2nd Congressional District committee, said Cuccinelli supporters are working across the state to make the change, which could be decided on in June.
“To me, it’s a sign of a weak candidate if you’re afraid to face the electorate,’’ said Jim Rich, a longtime Republican activist in Fauquier County who supports Bolling.
Cuccinelli said after he got into the race in December that he would not try to change the nomination method, and that he’s not behind the effort now.
“The State Central Committee decided early on that the 2013 method of nomination would be a primary -- and we don't expect that is likely to change,’’ Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall. “Given Ken's prohibitive frontrunner position, the method of nomination won’t make a difference in who is selected as our GOP gubernatorial nominee.’’
Bolling, who been planning a run for years, helped steer the State Central Committee to primaries for the U.S. Senate race in 2012 and statewide races in 2013.
“State Central Committee voted for a primary in October,’’ Bolling spokeswoman Ibbie Hedrick said. “Any efforts to change the method of nomination at this point in time would be contrary to the rules and inconsistent with past precedent.”
In 2009, Gov. Bob McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli were selected at a convention. The State Central Committee voted overwhelmingly — 51-28 — in October to change from a convention to a primary for 2013.
Officials say they voted two years in advance because they wanted to give candidates a chance to decide whether they wanted to run based on the method of nomination selection.