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.