Thursday, October 21, 2010

Virginia Politics Blog - State GOP will vote on Cuccinelli's proposal for higher filing fees at state conventions

Virginia Politics Blog - State GOP will vote on Cuccinelli's proposal for higher filing fees at state conventions

State GOP will vote on Cuccinelli's proposal for higher filing fees at state conventions

Anita Kumar

The Republican Party of Virginia's governing board will decide in December whether to adopt Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's proposal to dramatically raise filing fees for statewide candidates seeking the party's nomination at political conventions.

Last month, Cuccinelli called for candidates for governor to pay up to $50,000 and candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general up to $25,000 to secure a spot at the party's nominating convention. He also wanted delegates to be charged for attending the convention.

Dave Rexrode, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said members of the Republican State Central Committee will vote on whether candidates for statewide office, including U.S. Senate, will pay fees of up to $25,000 and convention delegates will begin paying a mandatory fee.

Mike Thomas, the party's first vice chairman, wrote the State Central Committee in an email that the committee reviewing the party platform wants to limit the amount to $25,000. "This proposed amendment was discussed at great length, with the committee members feeling that a proposed filing fee of $50,000 for the office of Governor was too high,'' he wrote.

In an interview last month, Cuccinelli said an increase in fees would help pay for the cost of the convention and ensure conventions remain an option for the party. He said the state party lost money at the 2009 gathering where he, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) were nominated.

But some activists worry that raising filing fees could shut out candidates who have trouble paying the hefty fees to get into the nominating process.

"That's something that disturbs tea party patriots a great deal,'' said Ron Wilcox of Fairfax County, founder of the Northern Virginia Tea Party. "It's not in favor of tea party people being more involed in the Republican party. And that's very troubling."

The move is also likely to be seen as a way to ensure the party chooses a convention to nominate its gubernatorial candidate in 2013, a process that favors more conservative candidates who are popular with the party's grassroots -- like Cuccinelli.

But Cuccinelli has said that even with higher filing fees, conventions are cheaper for candidates than primaries, making them a better option for non-traditional candidates. And he denied that the move has anything to do with his own political future.

The costs of holding primary elections are paid by taxpayers, split between the state and local governments. Filing fees for primary elections are set by the state board of elections and set at two percent of the salary of the office sought.

The party plan previously called for gubernatorial candidates to pay $25,000 at conventions. But in March 2008, the party lowered filing fees to match those charged for primary candidates.

McDonnell paid just $3,500 to run unopposed at during the state GOP convention, or 2 percent of the governor's $175,000 salary. (Cuccinelli paid $3,000 in his three-way race while Bolling paid $762 to run against Patrick Muldoon).

In November 2009, after McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli were elected, the amount was raised to 4 percent of the office's salary after some local parties complained that they had trouble paying for their meetings and conventions.

Convention delegates have not been required to be a mandatory fee since 1994. Last year, the more than 11,000 delegates were asked to pay $35, but many did not.

By Anita Kumar | October 13, 2010; 9:00 AM ET

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