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State Republicans Opt for Senate Convention in ’08

Virginia’s GOP central committee decided over the weekend that a convention, rather than a primary race, will be the format that will be used to decide who will be the Republican Party’s nominee to fill the seat of retiring Sen. John Warner (R).

State GOP sources have said a primary format would have favored Rep. Tom Davis (R), who is widely expected to join the race along with former Commonwealth Gov. Jim Gilmore. Davis has a base in vote-rich Northern Virginia and was perhaps hoping to use the primary campaign to build name ID across the state leading up to a battle with popular former Gov. Mark Warner (D).

A convention, which is a smaller forum dominated by social conservatives and party activists, appears at first glance to favor Gilmore. Davis has a legislative record that reflects his moderate social views, including supporting abortion rights, and Gilmore sympathizers have argued that it would be almost impossible for Davis to win in a convention.

Davis adviser John Hishta said the decision to hold a nominating convention would not have any bearing on Davis’ decision on whether to run for the Senate. He added that the Congressman still plans on making a formal announcement about the race after Virginia’s November legislative elections.

“You should not underestimate [Davis’] ability to win a convention,” Hishta said.

— John McArdle

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