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Local Republicans Mixed on Delegate Selection Change

WHEELING — West Virginia Republicans won’t be electing delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2020 as workers with the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump will do the selections.

Local Republicans, meanwhile, realize loyalty to party and the Republican nominee will be necessary. But they have mixed feelings on whether foregoing the delegate election process is a good thing. At their recent summer meeting at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, the West Virginia Republican State Executive Committee voted to the change the state party’s delegate selection rules. The 2020 Republican National Convention is set to take place nearly one year from now — Aug. 24-27, 2020 — in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Under the new procedures, West Virginia Republicans interested in being delegates to the convention must apply for the role, then convince the Trump campaign of what they have done for the party and the candidate, explained Ohio County Republican Party Chairman Elgine McArdle. The list of approved candidates will come back to the WVGOP executive committee for final approval.

The rule change assumes Trump will be the Republican nominee in West Virginia and is in effect only for the 2020 campaign, she said.

“The process allows the delegate to be vetted by both the Trump campaign and the party,” she said. “Because we’re in a unique situation with an incumbent president, this won’t stay in effect. After this election it (delegate selection) will default back to ballot unless it is changed by the party.

“Everybody recognizes Trump needs to stay in office for West Virginia to continue in prosperity.”

McArdle is among those who believe abolishment of the election of delegates “is a good thing.” She was among hundreds of state Republicans on the ballot seeking election as a delegate to the 2016 convention in Cleveland.

“First and foremost, the ballot system — while perceived as a democracy thing — isn’t really in this case,” she said. “When you’re voting for people across the state — most of which you don’t know — the election process loses meaning. As a general rule, people vote by name recognition as opposed to educating themselves on the candidates.

“What you end up with are people going to convention who haven’t necessarily been the warriors for the campaign — those who knock on doors and make the calls.”

Former state senator and Wheeling mayor Andy McKenzie was elected as a delegate to the 2016 GOP convention. He feels while party and candidate loyalty are important during an election year, foregoing the delegate election process isn’t ideal.

“Ultimately, I am a firm believer the party system is a good system,” he said. “While it has flaws, it is important to get delegates to the convention who are there for the party and the candidate.

“But also in saying that, I’ve always felt the people should make the decision on anything.”

He admits he is sitting on the fence on the issue.

“Ultimately, I believe we live in a democracy. But I also understand we have to be loyal to the party and the person,” he said. “Because of this, we have to make it a closed shop. But I’m always a firm believer you let the people vote.

“There is a strong logic behind what they did. But it always concerns me when they take the vote away from the people.”

Marshall County GOP Chairman Brian Long said he also is undecided whether the move by the state party is the correct one. He was elected to be a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay.

He was on the 2016 ballot as an uncommitted delegate, and was not elected.

“I was not a Trump delegate,” Long said. “I was not against him, but with 17 people running (for the Republican presidential nomination) I didn’t declare. I would love do it all again tomorrow. But I don’t know how this all will play out.”

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