The Shocking Dunbar Gambit

Photo from the Dunbar for Congress Facebook page

For those who follow Virginia politics, I’m sure many people were stunned to recently hear that Representative Tom Garrett (VA-5) would not be seeking re-election this year as a result of alcohol issues.  As such, it was announced that the 5th district Republican committee would be selecting a candidate to replace him.

Immediately, candidates threw their names in for consideration.  Within an hour or two of Garrett’s announcement, Denver Riggleman was the first announcement I saw.  Other names for consideration (or potential consideration) included: Martha Boneta, Senator Bill Stanley, Senator Jill Vogel, and Michael Del Rosso.

When Bearing Drift reported on June 1st that Cynthia Dunbar would be seeking the nomination, I didn’t believe it.  After all, she had lost the nomination in the 6th district convention a few weeks before.  In addition, although not a requirement for office, she lives in the 6th district, not the 5th.  Nevertheless, I needed to find out for myself if what was reported on Bearing Drift was true.  I wrote to a Dunbar supporter seeking an answer but did not receive a reply.

On Saturday morning I hopped on Facebook, hoping to learn more about what was going on in the 5th.  Fortunately, one of my friends offered regular updates on what was taking place in Nelson County.  Much to my surprise, Bearing Drift was right and Dunbar was indeed a candidate.

At first, I was disturbed by this news.  Why was Dunbar running a stealth campaign in the 5th?  More importantly, why was Dunbar running in the 5th at all?  As I wrote at the time, “I feel like this move damages her credibility statewide.”  The final list of candidates for consideration was: Martha Boneta, Michael Del Rosso, Cynthia Dunbar, Denver Riggleman, Michael Webert, and Joe Whited.

After the first vote, Dunbar led the pack with 15 votes.  Riggleman and Whited had 6 and Del Rosso had 5 with the rest of the field eliminated.  A candidate needed 19 votes to get the nomination.  Not only was I surprised by Dunbar’s strong performance, I was also shocked that Senator Stanley didn’t end up running and, after her growing list of endorsements, the fact that Martha Boneta didn’t make it to the next round.

The second round of voting resulted in Dunbar losing a vote with Dunbar 14, Riggleman 13, Del Rosso 9, and Mr. Whited not making the cut.

The third round found Dunbar still leading with 16, Riggleman with 15, and Del Rosso eliminated.  Looking back to the rather nasty Garrett/Del Rosso fight from 2016, I assumed that Del Rosso would direct his supporters to Dunbar and that she would win on the final ballot.   Given my experiences and what I knew of the candidates as well as the fact that I respected many of the members who spoke in favor of her if given the choice I would have voted for Dunbar over Riggleman.

Nevertheless, on the final ballot, Riggleman won the nomination 19-18.  According to the Washington Post, “During a fourth and final vote, Riggleman’s team used control of the House as a negotiating tactic, telling members that if Democrats win the majority they will impeach Trump.”  I wouldn’t have predicted it, coming remarkably close, Dunbar’s gambit came within one vote of success.

Although the 5th district of Virginia is a Republican district, without an incumbent in what I believe will be an impending blue wave for the Democrats, I believe that Riggleman and the Republicans can still win, but it won’t be nearly as easy as they would like.  If Mr. Riggleman is elected, I sincerely hope that he distinguishes himself as one of the most pro-liberty members of the House as his supporters claim he will be.

First Impressions: Jason Carrier

Photo from Brian Hiner, 6th district LPVA Chairman

For the last several weeks, I have been wondering if anyone would seek the Libertarian Party nomination for governor.  Robert Sarvis ran in 2013, but that was only the second time in Virginia history that the LPVA fielded a candidate for this position.  Although Mr. Sarvis did run for the Virginia Senate in 2011, he was not well-known statewide before the 2013 Virginia Libertarian Convention in Waynesboro.  When I asked if anyone would run this year, I was told that there were several prospective candidates but nothing was public yet.

As my search continued, I was given a name, Jason Carrier.  Being the curious fellow I am, I sought him out and sent him a Facebook message hoping to learn more.  Most importantly, I asked him why he was running.  His response was, “The party needs a candidate to keep momentum up.  I’ve been preaching Libertarian values to anyone who would listen for years, so I figured I would quit bitching and try and do something about it.  It is about forcing the other two parties to compete in the arena of ideas, pulling them to a pro-liberty agenda.”  As you might imagine, given my beliefs and support for political competition, I thought his answer was a good beginning.

On Saturday, March 11th, the 6th district Libertarian Party held a convention in Staunton, Virginia.  I ended up sitting next to a fellow in a red button-up shirt and tie who turned out to be Jason Carrier.  After the main business of the meeting, such as the election of officers and Will Hammer gaining the Libertarian nomination for the 20th district in the House of Delegates, Mr. Carrier took the floor.

Mr. Carrier spoke of about himself and his experiences but, unlike many other office-seekers, especially first-time candidates, his life wasn’t the central focus of his talk.  Instead, he discussed a number of issues of importance to his campaign such as reducing taxes, regulatory reform, and even privatizing the roads in the Commonwealth.  Perhaps surprisingly he had favorable things to say about one of his opponents, Republican candidate Denver Riggleman, who he said shared many principles with Libertarians.  As a self-identified jarhead, occasionally Mr. Carrier would pepper his speech with some mild language that you wouldn’t expect from your average politician.  After his remarks, he fielded a multitude of questions from the audience on a variety of topics.  As one example, although most Libertarians are pro-choice, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a statewide candidate advocating for life.

Although brief, I have to say that I am impressed with Jason Carrier thus far.  He seems authentic and not a typical politician willing to say whatever he thinks will earn your support.  He spoke with conviction and didn’t waffle or appear dazed like some people do when they are caught in the high-beams of public attention.  He didn’t avoid tough questions by shifting the discussion to other topics and was quite open and approachable.  One interesting idea he proposed, and although I’ll admit I am ignorant of the subject, I’m not sure of the present viability of solar power producing roadways.  Lastly, unlike some third-party candidates, he did not promise certain victory if given the party’s nomination, which is a pretty tough task given numerous legal hurdles, press barriers, and mindset of voters who are constantly told that supporting a third party or independent candidate is akin to “wasting their votes”.  If he does not win, he seeks to capture at least 10% of the vote.  Doing so would make it much easier for Virginia voters to routinely have a third choice in future elections.  In addition, he hopes that his run will inspire more candidates to run under the Libertarian Party banner.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Jason Carrier as the campaign continues, but, as I’ve said, my first impressions were quite positive.  If you’d like to meet him in person and you live in the Harrisonburg area, I’m told he’ll likely be stopping by the next meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians on the evening of March 21st.

Riggleman Visits Greene County

On the evening of Monday, January 16th, the Greene County Republican Party held their monthly dinner gathering at the Blue Ridge Cafe in Ruckersville, Virginia.  Denver Riggleman, the newest entrant for the Republican nomination to be Virginia’s next governor, was the speaker for the event.  According to my count, there were 22 folks in attendance.

At the beginning of the dinner, I appreciated being announced by the chairman of the group for my work on this website.  I’ve known quite a few of the Greene County Republicans since working with them in 2012 and unlike some of the groups in the Shenandoah Valley, which have fallen to the establishment, for the most part, the folks in Greene are friendlier and more committed to principle.

Anyway, Denver Riggleman introduced himself and spoke of his experiences in the armed forces, the intelligence industry, and in the distillery business.  He mentioned that before deciding to run for governor his family was considering moving their business to another state, possibly Pennsylvania, due to the unreasonably high excise taxes leveled against liquor producers in the state of Virginia.  If I recall correctly, he stated that his current tax rate was over 40%.

During the question and answer period that followed, Mr. Riggleman fielded quite a few inquiries from the audience.  However, at one point his campaign manager took over and began to answer the questions himself.  Although it was fine for some of the technical aspects of the campaign, it began to take away from the attendees’ opportunity to learn about the candidate.  As a result, one woman requested that she wanted to hear more of Mr. Riggleman’s answers and he obliged.

From there, many of those gathered including Mr. Riggleman joined others at the Greene County Republican business meeting in Stanardsville.  However, given the heavy fog on route 33 through the mountain, I thought it best to return to Harrisonburg in case it got even worse.

In the parking lot after the meeting, I briefly asked a UVA student who sat next to me what drew him to the Riggleman campaign.  Although I agree with most of what he has said, I can understand the present dissatisfaction with the other Republican choices, and I know many good people who are onboard with the Denver campaign, I still haven’t heard enough to compel me to join the team.  I supposed I’d like for him to speak more about specific policy ideas.  The student suggested that Denver Riggleman shares much of my ideology, but I haven’t been in the right venue to catch the spark yet.  I guess we will see what the next stop brings.

Denver Makes it Official

Yesterday, at the Silverback Distillery in Afton, Virginia, Denver Riggleman and his campaign formally launched his bid for governor of Virginia.  Spilling over into another room, about two hundred people or so gathered to learn about this fellow and his plans for the Commonwealth.  In his speech, Mr. Riggleman stressed that unlike his opponents, he is not a politician, but rather a businessman, former intelligence officer, and previously served in the U.S. Air Force.

Rather than highlight everything he said, for those who missed the event, The Richmond Tea Party captured Mr. Riggleman’s speech and shared it on YouTube.

Before and after his announcement, the campaign collected signatures to get Denver Riggleman on the primary ballot.  Each statewide candidate requires 10,000 signatures scattered throughout the various eleven congressional districts.

Inside, several other bloggers were in attendance including Stacie Gordon of Millennial Ascent and Steven Brodie Tucker of The Bull Elephant. Several leaders of JMU’s Madison Liberty group were there too.

Although many liberty-minded folks have coalesced behind the Denver campaign, I need to learn more about this candidate and his campaign before considering such a recommendation.  However, speaking of liberty-minded folks, it was great to see many activists I knew at the event in Nelson County, including several I haven’t seen for years.  In addition, the event served as an opportunity to finally meet some of my Facebook friends in person.

Some of you may be asking if the Denver Riggleman campaign will shake up the race for governor.  Well, given the turnout on Saturday, it seems that it already has.  The real question to ask is what kind of impact will they make between now and the primary?