Brewer-Sadler race to be decided by convention

Published 11:00 am Friday, January 27, 2023

The Republican Party of Virginia will hold a convention rather than a primary election to decide whether Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, or retired NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler will be its candidate for the state’s newly created 17th District Senate seat.

According to Brewer’s campaign manager, Nathanael Hirt, the convention will occur between May 4 and June 20, though a specific date, time and location have not been set.

Unlike a primary, where polls open in each locality on election day and voters have the option of voting early or by absentee ballot, a convention is held at one place at a specific date and time, Hirt explained. Voters wishing to cast a ballot in the race will need to travel to that place and fill out what’s known as a “convention delegate form.”

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The form isn’t available yet, but is set to be released shortly by the Legislative District Committee, a body formed from all the county-level Republican Party chairs from the localities that comprise the 17th District. According to Hirt, the committee voted in December to hold a convention rather than a traditional primary.

The advantage to the Republican Party in holding a convention over a primary, Hirt said, is this will allow the committee to verify every ballot is indeed cast by a registered Republican. Virginia holds open primaries, in which anyone can vote regardless of party affiliation.

“What that means for us is we’ve got to work hard to go out and not only identify people that are interested in this race, but identify people who are willing to go vote at a convention at a date and time to be determined,” Sadler said in a Jan. 7 video published to his campaign Facebook page.

Sadler announced his candidacy two months earlier, on Nov. 9, pledging on his campaign website to “put the pedal to the metal for Virginia” as a “conservative outsider” in the race.

Virginia’s Supreme Court adopted new legislative districts at the end of 2021 based on the results of the 2020 Census. Brewer, who’s represented the reliably Republican and largely rural 64th House of Delegates District since 2017, found herself moved to a newly created, Suffolk-heavy 84th District, which is expected to break for Democrats based on votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.

Rather than seek reelection to the House in 2023, Brewer announced last year she would instead be running for the newly created Senate District 17, also created from the redistricting process. The 17th includes all of Isle of Wight, Southampton, Greensville and Brunswick counties, the cities of Suffolk, Franklin and Emporia, and parts of Portsmouth and Dinwiddie County.

The Virginia Public Access Project forecasts the seat to lean Republican based on the 2021 governor’s race, though a memorandum by the Supreme Court’s map-drawers, Bernard Grofman and Sean Trende, had the seat as leaning Democratic based on votes cast in the 2017 Virginia attorney general election.

Del. Clint Jenkins, D-Suffolk, announced his intention in 2022 to run for the 17th District Senate seat on the Democratic ticket. Michelle Joyce of Smithfield, who ran unsuccessfully against Brewer in 2019, has announced her intent to seek the 84th District House of Delegates seat.