So have a slew of other candidates, including Virginia’s GOP national committeewoman, Cynthia Dunbar, who most recently was seen campaigning for U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore in Alabama.
It would have made for a great primary election — except the district’s Republican committee decided it would hold a convention instead. A convention is not as inclusive or determinative as a primary, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That was until the committee decided the nominee would be chosen by a plurality of the vote rather than a majority. That’s when the controversy, the conspiracy theories and the opening for Democrats all began to meet.
First, the controversy.
Cline challenged the committee’s voting decision. On his website, Cline wrote the choice was an effort “to rig the convention to help their chosen candidate because they do not believe their candidate of choice is strong enough to win a majority of delegates under the standard Convention rules.”
Cline went on to say that it was up to convention delegates, not the committee, to decide the rules.
Former Republican Party of Virginia general counsel Lee Goodman said Cline has a solid point, telling Roanoke Times reporter Carmen Forman that a committee “cannot dictate the rules that govern the Convention in the Call or otherwise, including the rule governing vote thresholds because the Convention itself retains authority to determine its own rules.”
So who is the committee’s preferred candidate?
All eyes turn to the colorful Dunbar.
Dunbar first made political waves in Texas, where she was a member of the Texas State Board of Education.
In her single term on the board, Dunbar fought to change school curricula, excising Thomas Jefferson (for advocating the separation of church and state), muting the teaching of evolution and advancing the notion that the United States is a Christian nation.
As for public schools, well, in Dunbar’s 2008 book, “One Nation Under God,” she called them a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”
Let’s not forget that Dunbar has run for Congress once before — in Texas, in 2008. She lost the GOP primary, earning less than 4 percent of the vote.
Why would the 6th District committee favor Dunbar?
Because the rest of the field, and Cline in particular, represents the dreaded D.C. swamp.
District vice chairman Matt Tederick, a Dunbar supporter, spun a tale about a mysterious group called “Anybody But Dunbar” and a phone call to the Dunbar campaign:
…from a lawyer in Washington, D.C. The lawyer said he had been encouraged to run in the 6th District by a group called Anybody But Dunbar. The group instructed the lawyer to campaign as normal, but throw his support behind fellow candidate Del. Ben Cline upon losing at the convention.
The committee’s plurality vote choice, then, is an effort to thwart such evil-doings. As Dunbar wrote on Twitter:
Given the intrigue, the craziness and the wild personalities, surely, Democrats have a chance to win, right?
Were this 1982 – the last time district Republicans tore themselves apart over a nomination, giving Democrat Jim Olin the opportunity to claim the center and win — then, yes, all signs would point to a possible pickup.
But the district has changed a lot since 1982. It has become more Republican through redistricting, and Democrats, so far, have two unknowns running for the nomination.
That isn’t enough to win. But with the GOP fouling its own nest, if a marquee Democratic challenger does appear, then the Valley might have a real race in November.