Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6), powerful Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced today after much speculation that he is retiring from Congress at the end of his current term.
Goodlatte, who most recently made news as an unheeded whistleblower on the State Department’s Diversity Visa Lottery program, has served in the House of Representatives since 1993. Contrary to the immediate spin from major “news” outlets, Goodlatte’s departure is not because of Tuesday’s historic defeat of Virginia Republicans and the expected strength of Democrats across the board in the 2018 midterm elections; Goodlatte’s Sixth District is one of the most safely Republican districts in the Commonwealth, second only to Southwest Virginia’s Ninth District. In other words, Goodlatte is in a safe seat, and could have easily won re-election if he secured the Republican nomination.
On that last point, some of our sources speculate that Goodlatte wasn’t as assured of success, given the apparent fortunes of ongoing litigation against the Incumbent Protection Act involving the Sixth District Republican Committee. In a recent hearing in that case, I’m told the judge seemed pre-disposed to the plaintiffs’ complaint that the law, which allows incumbent lawmakers certain advantages in choosing the method of their re-nomination, is unconstitutional. Should the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs, and should the Sixth District Committee subsequently exercise its right to nominate its candidate via a convention instead of a state-run open primary, Goodlatte’s renomination would likely have been imperiled.
In any case, Republicans are losing a longtime servant of the conservative cause, who has accomplished a great deal in his time in Congress. It is true that some grassroots conservatives have had several bones to pick with Goodlatte over the years, but by and large he is to be commended for faithful and diligent service, and consistent leadership (as when he warned us about the dangers of the visa lottery program many years ago, when his prescience went unheeded).
Now the exciting part: who will next spring’s convention nominate to replace Goodlatte? There is lots of speculation about who may run, but first to announce is conservative firebrand Cynthia Dunbar.
Dunbar first came to prominence in conservative circles as a member of the popularly elected Texas State Board of Education. Later, as a law professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Dunbar became active in local Republican circles and last year was elected to be Virginia’s Republican National Committeewoman, in a hotly contest race with Suzanne Obenshain.
Speculation is rampant that Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) could reprise a Dunbar/Obenshain matchup by announcung a run. The name we’re hearing most often, though, is conservative Del. Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge). Still other candidates may emerge.