Virginia Democrats will hold a primary — not a convention — next year to select their nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D).

At the party’s Central Committee meeting Saturday, officials also agreed to hold their 2012 convention in Fairfax.

Former governor Tim Kaine, the presumptive nominee, faces political newcomers Courtney Lynch and Julien Modica in the Democratic primary. Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott announced he would not run for the Senate, but instead would run for re-election the House.

If Kaine is the only candidate to qualify for the ballot, the primary could be canceled.

Late last year, Republicans also chose a primary over a convention in a move that was believed to favor former governor and senator George Allen.

Allen, who faces a crowded primary field of Republicans, has strong name recognition throughout the state and is raising more money than his rivals, a significant advantage in a primary.

In recent years, the GOP has used conventions to pick its statewide candidates, including in 2009 to nominate Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and in 2008 to nominate former governor James Gilmore for Senate. Democrats used a primary to nominate state Sen. Creigh Deeds for governor in 2009.