Home 2018 Elections VA-01 Democratic Candidate Ryan Sawyers Calls for “Open Primary” to Choose Nominee

VA-01 Democratic Candidate Ryan Sawyers Calls for “Open Primary” to Choose Nominee


Should primaries be the standard method for choosing Democratic nominees? Should other methods – “firehouse primaries,” conventions, caucuses, etc. – also be considered and/or used?  My view is that there are pros and cons to each method, but in general I lean strongly towards primaries, because they allow for the greatest voter participation. However, let’s not kid ourselves that there are disadvantages to primaries here in Virginia, such as the inability to use “ranked” or “range” voting methods (e.g., Instant Runoff Voting) and also the fact that we don’t have party registration in our state. To me, the former point is the key one, particularly in cases where there are a large number of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination.  Because, again, I want to see as many voters able to participate as possible, BUT I also want to see majority rules, which in the case of a 5-person nomination contest, let’s say, could result in our nominee winning with just 21% of the vote.

With that, here’s a statement by VA-01 Democratic candidate Ryan Sawyers, calling for a state-run, open primary for Democrats in that district. Note that recently, VA-10 selected a primary as its method of nomination, while VA-05 opted for a convention.

  • old_redneck

    I agree with Sawyers that we VA-01 Democrats need a primary. We do not need a convention controlled by a few white-wine-sipping, Volvo-driving nerds from Fredericksburg — we’ve done that too many times. The worst was when we nominated the walking, talking joke Krystal Ball (yes, that’s her real name).

    While I agree with Sawyers, I will not vote for him. His tenure as chairman of Prince William County School Board has been marked by turmoil, self-inflicted wounds, lawsuits, and general horseshit, all of which originates with Sawyers.

  • Harry

    Sawyers is 100% correct, open primaries should ALWAYS be the method of selecting our candidates for the reasons Sawyers cites.

  • dave schutz

    I’m happy to support Mr Sawyers’ view, here. More voters, wider backing, what’s not to like? I’d like to draw readers’ attention to the 8th CD Dem Convention which passed a resolution in this year’s session calling for local parties to use primaries instead of caucus in almost all cases (https://www.va8thcddems.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Primaries-Instead-of-Caucuses-FNL.pdf)

    However, with first-past-the-post, and a large number of candidates, we can fall prey to what I’ll call the Trump-McKinney-Stewart-Grayson problem, which occurs when one candidate has substantial, but not majority, backing and prevails because a large number of candidates all of whom would be more attractive to the majority of voters split the ‘anti-Trump-McKinney-Stewart-Grayson’ vote. This is a worry in the 10th, in the upcoming primary, for example. As our Gracious Host has noted above “in the case of a 5-person nomination contest, let’s say, could result in our nominee winning with just 21% of the vote.” And that’s why the 8th District Dem convention also said that the law should be changed so that parties have a choice between first-past-the-post and ranked choice in precinct based primaries, (https://www.va8thcddems.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Instant-Runoff-Voting-IRV-FNL.pdf). This was put in as an 8th CD resolution in large part because of backing from the Arlington Young Dems.

    8th CD Dems said:

    “The Democratic Party is built upon the fundamental principles of inclusion, transparency, openness, and equal access to the ballot for all voters. Under the Democratic Party plan each jurisdiction has the discretion to select its candidates by either a primary, an assembled caucus or an unassembled caucus. As a limitation on this choice, if an incumbent office holder was selected by a primary, the officer holder can demand a primary when running for re-election. In several jurisdictions across the Commonwealth of Virginia, local Democratic organizations opted to use a caucus instead of a primary in a local election to determine the Democratic candidate for a general election. Although the government funds primaries, local Democratic
    organizations bear the cost and volunteer resources necessary to conduct caucuses. In addition, the decision to opt for a caucus over a primary has been viewed as being conducted in a less than transparent manner, and inevitably draws criticism as favoring party insiders. A caucus frequently results in substantially lower turnout among eligible voters than is the case with primaries. Unlike a primary which has extensive opportunities for in-person and mail-in absentee voting, virtually all caucuses require in-person voting during designated hours at one or a few locations. In contrast, primaries are held at the regular polling place in each precinct. As a result, a caucus disproportionally excludes young people, minorities, working people, party outsiders, and independent-leaning voters by imposing stricter limits than a primary as to the
    time and location in which eligible voters may exercise their franchise. Because a primary will have a higher voter turnout than a caucus, it is more valuable in party
    building. Following a caucus, the party will receive fewer participant names than from a
    primary, so there are fewer voters identified as Democrats to target in the general election get out the vote efforts. Therefore, be it resolved that: the 2017 Eighth District Democratic Convention recommends the Virginia State Democratic party and the local Democratic committees conduct primaries whenever possible.”