A Look at How Presidential Candidates Get on Virginia's Primary Ballot

Dec 19, 2019

Democrats have set their list of candidates for Virginia's presidential primary next year, and Republicans are planning a convention.

Pop quiz: What do these four men have in common? Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman. The answer: none of them were able to meet Virginia’s very strict requirements to get on the ballot back in 2012. Now, that’s eased up a bit since, but Julian Castro had a hard time meeting all the requirements for next year’s primary in March on Super Tuesday.

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says statewide candidates for 2021 probably won’t have any trouble meeting those requirements, but… 

“It’s harder for the presidential candidates because especially for the smaller candidates like Castro’s campaign," Tribbett explains. "Which are just hanging on by a thread and have very small budgets, trying to meet all these ballot access laws in every state at once is very expensive.”

Republicans are planning a convention rather than a primary.

David Foster with the party’s State Central Committee says that’ll make things very difficult for Bill Weld and Joe Walsh. 

“Well, a candidate would have to have, of course, a statewide campaign to recruit delegates to the convention from every locality," Foster says. "That, of course, will be a tall order for anybody opposing an incumbent such as President Trump. But that would be the route you’d have to take.”

Now, Foster says he argued for a primary rather than a convention, believing it would offer better participation for active duty military, seniors with mobility issues and busy parents. But he lost that fight, and the Republican convention is set to take place next May in Lynchburg.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.