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.

A Visit to Freedomland

VC note: A Guest Post by Karen Kwiatkowski

In the 6th District of Virginia, we don’t much like government rules and regulations, especially when they don’t pass a common sense test.   The Constitution speaks of our God-given rights to be secure in our persons, property and papers – to live free.  This part of Virginia lives and breathes this valued sense of who we are – citizens always, and subjects to a distant capitol, never.

We tend not to trust politicians.  We tend to understand that the longer these politicians are in office collecting benefits, creating legislative networks, and accumulating personal power, the more we, as Virginians, will suffer.

My recent visit to Highland and Bath Counties dished out plenty of evidence about how Virginians – real Virginians – think and live.  They think independently, and they strive to live free.

While in Highland, I ate local trout and maple pecan pie.  In Bath, I spoke to trout fishermen and gave some of the best bait they were using a smell test.  I saw lots of sheep and lumber mills, and observed maple syrup being boiled down in antique boilers, in the old ways.

The world famous Maple Festival in Highland is about an older way that works.  And in many ways, this region is about old ideas that have stood the test of time.

The people I met in Bath and Highland Counties this past weekend are not the same people I met at Hot Springs at the Republican Advance in early December.  Those politicians visiting the high country, with few exceptions, constitute the political elite in Virginia.  Many of these Republicans were more interested in each other and the power to be gleaned from those relationships than they are in promoting the fundamental and limited role of government.

The Republican Party creed is a good one, especially for those of us living in the upper Shenandoah Valley and in the western mountains of the state.  The creed embraces “fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints” at “all levels of government.” It affirms that the “Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations.”

In other words, on paper, the Republican Party values the freedom to work, to produce, to think, and to speak.  The message is that we have the freedom to take care of our own, and we deserve freedom from government idiocy.

This message is exactly what I heard again and again from veterans and from businessmen, from public servants and retired people in this part of the district.    As a visitor, I was inspired by the geography, the natural beauty and natural resources of this lovely part of Virginia.  As a Republican challenger standing up to the career politician who currently represents the 6th District, I was honored to talk about government and politics with people in this far western part of our district.  As a constitutionalist, a veteran, as a farmer and a lover of liberty, I felt right at home in Highland and Bath Counties.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mount Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

The GOP Senate Race is Over?

Although there are still many months until the Republican primary for Virginia’s Senate seat, some people are already calling the result.  Now such personal predictions don’t bother me.  It is true that George Allen is leading in race currently, in much the same way as Rick Perry is leading in the race for President.  One, both, or neither of them could end up winning.  If you will recall, four years ago Rudy Giuliani was the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination for President while John McCain’s campaign seems to be in total disarray. We all know how that situation played out.  However, when the press starts picking winners and losers, I certainly have a problem.

Yesterday, I received word, first from the Radtke campaign and then from the Donner campaign, that the Virginia Associated Press and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association have more or less determined the outcome of the race.  They just announced a Senate candidate debate in December.  Rather than inviting all of the legitimate Republican candidates, presently they are only allowing George Allen and Tim Kaine to participate.  Now this event would be all well and good if both Allen and Kaine were their respective party nominees.  But, as the primary has not taken place, they are not.

Although I would expect that most of the conservative activists who support Allen would merely shrug and consider it a win for Allen, the press is tampering with something far larger and more important than this one election.  Sure, many debates have limited candidates based upon exceedingly low poll numbers, but a threshold of 15%?  Is that reasonable?  And then you add the additional hurdle of fundraising too?  As the Radtke campaign writes, “By their logic, an AP / VCCA presidential debate in Virginia would include only Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The AP and VCCA would exclude Ron Paul (9.8%), Michele Bachmann (6.8%), Newt Gingrich (6.2%), Herman Cain (5.4%), Rick Santorum (1.8%) and Jon Huntsman (1.4%).

As the Donner campaign asks, “Do you want the chance to elect your own candidates, or do you think the media and pollsters in league with the usual cronies should decide that for you?”  For anyone who has the slightest desire to uphold our system of representative democracy, the answer is obvious.

I recommend emailing the Virginia Associated Press at dabernathy@ap.org and the VCCA at officers@vapress.org.  Take a stand.  Let them know that the voters, not the press, have the duty to select our nominees.

Kwiatkowski to Announce


Although Karen Kwiatkowski has been promoting her effort to unseat Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th) for last month or two, tomorrow she is officially announcing the start of campaign.

The details are as follows:
Time: Thursday, August 18th at Noon.
Location: The Augusta County Courthouse located at 1 East Johnson Street in Staunton.

Although I planned to attend this event, I regret to say that I’ll be unavailable.  Nevertheless, if you are interested in the fate of this nation and our representation in the federal government, I encourage you to be there.

Once the nomination comes around next year, you may end up choosing to re-elect Goodlatte or you may select Kwiatkowski. But through the process, I want you to ask yourself, which of these two candidates best represents your principles, your values?  After all, how can we hope to make an educated vote without sufficient information?  My advice is to listen to the words and plans of both Kwiatkowski and Goodlatte.  Tomorrow will give you one such opportunity.

I do hope you get a chance to hear Kwiatkowski on Thursday.  Rest assured that I’ll post more details about other campaign events as they become available.

Unbeatable Bob?

Since I first took an interest in politics in 1994, my hometown of Harrisonburg has been represented by 2 different Delegates, 2 State Senators, 5 Governors, 4 U.S. Senators, 3 Presidents, and a vast multitude of city council members.  During this time, there has been only one consistent factor in the Harrisonburg political representation, Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.  First elected in 1992, he has been our voice in the United States House of Representatives, uninterrupted for these last 19 years.

Given that the 6th district is arguably the most conservative and most Republican district in the state of Virginia, it comes as no surprise that Bob Goodlatte has won so many times.  But were you aware that the Democratic Party has fielded a candidate in only one of his last six elections?  Furthermore, each time that Goodlatte has faced a Democratic opponent, he has turned back these challengers handily, capturing between 60 to 69% of the vote.

So what about the elections when the Democrats don’t try?  Well, in those cases Goodlatte often has no opposition, as was the case in 1994, 2000, and 2004, or an assortment of third party and/or independent candidates.  These opponents outside the two-party system fare even worse that the Democrats.  For example, in the most recent contest back in 2010, he trounced both a Libertarian and Modern Whig, garnering a commanding 76.26%.

After taking the last election off, the Democratic Party seems poised to try to capture the seat once more.  Right now, their probable candidate appears to be Andy Schmookler, a radio personality and author from Shenandoah County.

However, unlike every previous contest, save for his first in 1992, we have an unusual challenge; Bob Goodlatte is facing an opponent from within the Republican Party.  Running as a liberty-minded Republican is Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Air Force Colonel, college instructor, and political author from Shenandoah County.

Now, if either the Republican nomination or the general election were held today, I would expect Bob Goodlatte to win both handily.  After all, he has a massive advantage in name ID, war chest contributions, and is generally liked in political circles, Republican or otherwise.

According to Roanoke’s WSLS, at an event in Verona earlier this month Mr. Schmookler “compared his 6th District campaign to the rebel…mission to destroy the Death Star”.  That assessment may not be too far from the mark.  As fans of the Star Wars trilogy will recall, Han Solo declared Luke’s lucky shot at the end of the first film to be “one in a million”.  With all due respect to Mr. Schmookler and the Democratic Party, given the conservative nature of the voters in the Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys as well as the surrounding highlands, a Democratic victory in the 6th seems just about as improbable as the undermanned and under equipped rebels’ assault in that movie.

Although we don’t know if it will be decided by a primary, convention, or something else, which can certainly influence the outcome, I would expect the most exciting contest to be in the Republican nomination.  Are voters happy with Mr. Goodlatte and our current representation in Congress?  And what kind of alternative is Mrs. Kwiatkowsi offering?  These questions are the central issue that the two candidates and their campaigns will need to answer.

Mr. Goodlatte has a clear advantage over any challenger at this stage, but I’m looking forward to watching the contest to come.  As a fellow voter in the 6th, I encourage you to read about the candidates and visit their websites to learn more about our Representative, Bob Goodlatte, and his two contenders, Andy Schmookler, and Karen Kwiatkowski.

Is Bob Goodlatte unbeatable?  So far that answer seems to be yes.  But, there are other factors we must consider.  First, when we mix the contest with a high profile Senate and Presidential race, the story gets far more interesting. Second, given that he is opposed from both the left and the right, it seems certain that 2012 will be the most intriguing House race that Virginia’s 6th has seen in decades.

The Fuss Over Waters

Yesterday’s article on Bearing Drift concerning Steve Waters has drawn considerable attention from folks across the Republican spectrum.  For those unfamiliar with the story, let me give you a bit of background.  In the past, Mr. Waters has associated with candidates and politicians that mainstream Republicans routinely dismiss and marginalize.  For example, in 2008, Steve Waters ran Delegate Bob Marshall’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, nearly upsetting establishment favourite and former Governor Jim Gilmore.  Well, Bearing Drift informs us that the George Allen for Senate campaign has hired Waters.

This development is drawing considerable attention for a number of reasons.  Chief among them revolves around the extremely likely possibility that Delegate Marshall will be running against George Allen.  If Marshall does throw his hat into the ring, Waters will not be in his corner.  Now I know why the Allen campaign would hire Waters; having been involved with typically socially conservative activists, they hope to draw upon his knowledge and efforts to woo voters who I call the hard right.  After all, in this primary, Allen’s major weakness is supposedly not being conservative enough.  Steve Waters, they hope, will help counter this perception.

Now when you ask why Waters would join Allen, the answer becomes murky.  Perhaps Waters believes that Allen is a true conservative and is the best candidate.  Maybe he has discovered that contrary to popular opinion Bob Marshall is not going to run or he has had a falling out with the Delegate and is going with his new first choice.  Another likely possibility is that Waters thinks Allen will ultimately win and that he would like to be a part of the victory and the spoils it affords.  After all, a spot on a Senate staff is a highly sought position.

Reaction from this news is, not surprisingly, mixed.  Allen supporters welcome the news and are touting Waters as a worthy ally in the fight ahead.  Marshall people and those who oppose Allen are reacting with disbelief and anger, some comparing Waters to Benedict Arnold for selling out the “true” conservative movement.  An opinion of Waters seems to be closely tied to one’s opinion of Allen.

I’m not sure what to make of the whole situation really.  I won’t say that I know Steve Waters too well.  I did speak to him briefly during the 2008 Marshall campaign but cannot speak either positively or negatively of his efforts.  I have heard some people give him praise for his hard work, after all Marshall nearly upset Gilmore.  However, I’ve run across others who claim that Marshall almost won in spite of Waters supposed hindrance.  Like 1,440 others, I claim Mr. Waters as a Facebook friend.  Speaking of that matter, I do find it very bizarre that he must have gone through my friends list and sent friend requests to just about all of them, including ones that I know that he has never met and have little or nothing to do with Virginia politics.

Getting back to an earlier point, the most interesting question of this whole affair is Waters’ motivation.  Does he believe that George Allen is the best candidate?  Is it a matter of money or power?  Is he somehow seeking revenge against Marshall and his cadre of loyal supporters?  Unfortunately, I expect this question to go unanswered.

At the end of the day, I expect Steve Waters will draw some amount of conservatives toward Allen, but others will be unswayed.  If the primary were held today, with or without Waters, the smart money is on Allen to win.  Will Waters help Allen retain this edge through next year?  Again, not knowing enough about Waters, I can’t answer that question.  I’m just wondering how long it will be until the fuss dies down.

Update:  The Fifth District Watchdog makes an interesting point.  Back in October of 2010, I got an invite to join the Facebook group “Republicans against a George Allen comeback“.  Would you care to wager a guess who sent me the invite?  This story is getting more odd by the minute.  Given that revelation, Steve Waters joining the Allen team makes about as much sense as Ben Marchi joining Jamie Radtke’s crew.  Although it is remotely possible that Waters has had a complete change of heart, these developments seem to smack of hypocrisy.  Regardless of your feelings regarding Allen, it seems likely that Steve Waters has destroyed his political creditability with all parties.

Another Hat In The Ring

Late last night, I received word that the race for Virginia’s 2012 Republican Senate primary was getting a little more crowded.  In order of announcement we now have: Jamie Radtke, George Allen, David McCormick, Bishop Jackson, and the newest contender, Tim Donner.  At this point I’m sure you’re wondering, who is Tim Donner and what makes him so great?  Well, here’s the email that his campaign sent me:

CONSERVATIVE VIRGINIA BUSINESSMAN TIM DONNER

ANNOUNCES FOR THE U.S. SENATE

Says Washington is a mess and needs new leadership

Great Falls, VA – Northern Virginia businessman and small government advocate, Tim Donner, announced today that he is entering the Virginia Republican primary as a candidate for the open U.S. Senate being vacated by Senator Jim Webb.  Donner made his announcement on his website www.donnerforsenate.com.

I’ve watched this great country of ours sink deeply into the quicksand of overwhelming debt and dependency.  And like many of you, I have grave concerns about our future,” Donner says.

Donner is an entrepreneur who started his own media production company, Horizons Television, and also founded One Generation Away, a free market education, research, and public policy organization.  He works with two family foundations that help fund conservative and faith-based causes and has served on the boards of small government, free market and values-based organizations such as the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, Radio America and Cal Thomas’ Values Through Media.  His family helped William F. Buckley start National Review.  (further bio information is available on the website www.donnerforsenate.com)

Donner emphasized that he wants to be a citizen legislator, not a career politician.   “As a citizen, I am frustrated enough to leave my business and go to Washington to help the freshmen senators we elected last November build a majority and return us to the principles that made this country the greatest on earth. I am tired of watching our hard-earned money spent on political favors, failed stimulus and bailouts programs, and policies that push people deeper into government dependency, such as Obamacare, a failed and flawed socialist experiment.”

The time for complaining about America’s problems is over.  The time for solving them is now,” he concluded.

Tim Donner will be available for phone interviews Tuesday morning, April 26 starting at 10:00 am and television interviews in Northern Virginia that afternoon.  He will be touring the remainder of the state over the next few weeks and will available for in-person interviews at that time.

Like so many of the other contenders, Mr. Donner will have to overcome the difficult hurdle that he is generally unknown in statewide politics.  You’ll note that his comment against a “career politician” is an obvious dig against the two front frontrunners, George Allen and Tim Kaine.  Digging deeper, his website promotes many conservative ideals, but the real test is, will he be able to distinguish himself in this expanding field?

This latest entry begs the question, who else will make a play for the brass ring of our U.S. Senate Seat?  Will there be any other surprise candidates?  And how about Marshall or Stewart?  Only time will tell.

I wish Mr. Donner well and look forward to learning more about him and the rest of the hopefuls.  Like many Virginians, I have not made up my mind for U.S. Senate.  Whomever we select, I hope he or she will be a principled conservative who is never afraid to stand up for our values.  After all, a good leader is not one who caves in to the slightest peer pressure, but one who remains strong.  I want a Senator who has the courage to say what is sometimes the hardest word in the English language, no.

George Allen Returns!

Today former Governor and Senator George Allen announces his bid for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012.  For most of those following the election, the question was not if he would run, but rather when he would run.  I’m glad to hear both through this video and his visit during the Americans for Prosperity tour last week that he is central message thus far seems to be the same kind of limited government conservatism that so many people in the Commonwealth support.  And so fellow Virginians, our front runner has arrived.  The GOP nomination should be interesting, so stay tuned!