The Republican Party’s electoral success in Virginia this year owes much to its innovative candidate nomination process. The benefit of the multi-site, ranked-choice convention was hard to see when it was held in May, but clearly it made possible the nomination of an electable gubernatorial candidate whose success carried other GOP office-seekers down ticket.

Will the GOP learn the lesson of the 2021 elections as it moves toward nominating candidates for the 2022 congressional midterm elections? We are about to find out.

This year, the Republican Party of Virginia abandoned earlier plans for a primary. At first, it announced a “drive-in” convention at Liberty University to which Liberty had not fully agreed.

When that fell through, the party had to scramble. The solution seemed to have been conceived in chaos, advancing speculation that a party which had not won statewide in a decade was doomed to another year of defeat.

But necessity turned out to be the mother of invention.

Tired of watching every Republican claim to elective power in Virginia vanish while Donald Trump was either on the ballot or in the White House, GOP convention delegates in more than three dozen locations avoided a nominee in the image of the widely disliked former president. Instead, they picked an easygoing, unknown investment executive somewhat independent of Trump.

This month’s election vindicated the Republicans’ nominating decision when Glenn Youngkin, after a remarkably surefooted campaign, defeated Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe in the nationally watched governor’s election.

Can the GOP do it again in smaller races with similar dynamics? There already is a brewing GOP nomination controversy.

Last week, state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (Chesterfield) joined at least a half-dozen Republicans already seeking the nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger for her Richmond-area seat.

Chase, who calls herself “Trump in heels,” was also in a crowded field of candidates last year who were pursuing the GOP nomination for governor.

Her confrontational style through six years in the state Senate has alienated both Democratic and Republican senators. Earlier this year, she was the subject of a rare, bipartisan Senate censure for calling the violent mob that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 “patriots.” She had spoken in Washington, DC that morning, hours before the Capitol siege, repeating Trump’s baseless election fraud claims. She encouraged Trump to declare martial law to stay in power.

The Republicans’ decision to use a convention format made it highly unlikely that Chase could secure the nomination and generate the same large anti-Trump turnout that had sunk GOP campaigns in Virginia for four years. Under the convention’s ranked-choice voting structure, the winning candidate had to finish with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Chase’s odds would have been much greater in a primary where a plurality, not a majority, secures the nomination and, with the vote split four ways, Trump’s base would likely have provided that. She sued the RPV in Richmond Circuit Court in an unsuccessful effort to reinstate a primary instead of a convention.

Republicans held Virginia’s 7th District seat for decades before Spanberger unseated Republican Rep. Dave Brat in 2018. The party has traditionally used primaries to pick its candidates for the seat, including in 2014 when Brat upset seven-term congressman Eric Cantor, the House majority leader at the time.

Primaries for U.S. House seats are scheduled for June 21 with a candidate filing deadline of April 7. It will be interesting to see whether the GOP proceeds with that nomination method or opts for a canvass or a convention in the 7th. After all, this time last year the Republican Party of Virginia was committed to a primary before switching to a convention.

Further, the reapportionment mess clouds the congressional races in Virginia. Reapportionment has been significantly delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which impeded the 2020 Census and new population data that the states need to equalize their legislative districts. Then, once the data were obtained, Virginia’s new Redistricting Commission failed to do its job, shifting the task to the Virginia Supreme Court. It could be weeks, possibly months, before candidates who have declared to run in a specific U.S. House district will know whether they reside within that district or another. While residency within a given congressional district is not required to represent the district, residing outside it can be a significant political liability.

The Virginia GOP for now is on a roll, anchored in part by low job-performance numbers for Democrats in Congress and the White House. But as we saw in this year’s elections, the largely obscure process of how a party chooses its nominees will have a large impact on whether the GOP can carry its current momentum into 2022.