This past weekend, I had the privilege of going to the 2nd of 4 candidate forums in the race to replace Bob Goodlatte as our Congressman in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia. As most of you are aware, VA 6 is a heavy R district, so whoever wins the primary is the likely Congressman/woman to represent the Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke Valley, and Lynchburg areas. Eight people of all varying life experiences and ages are in the running, each bringing their own life and professional experience to the fight.
For the record, contrary to popular opinion I have no particular favorite and am not affiliated with any of the campaigns. 11 questions were asked, 8 of which the candidates had advanced knowledge of, and 3 came from the audience. Brief summaries of their opening statements, answers to the 11 questions, and closing statements are below – as well as a performance grade given to each of the 8 candidates, based on how they answered the questions according to both my own standards and the applause from the audience. Some of the candidates occasionally gave incoherent answers which I could not write down or even understand. These answers were noted in the summary.
The names of those seeking to replace Bob Goodlatte as they sat from left to right on Saturday are as follows:
Mike Desjadon (Health Care Professional)
Cynthia Dunbar (Constitutional Scholar and current VA RNC Chairwoman)
Chaz Haywood (Clerk of the Court Rockingham)
Ed Justo (Immigration lawyer)
Kathryn Lewis (Small business owner)
Dr. Douglas Wright (DDS Harrisonburg)
Ben Cline (Delegate from Lexington/Amherst/Bath/Augusta)
Elliott Pope (Small business owner)
Mike Desjadon is a health care professional and is running to repeal Obama Care. Says we need better health care for veterans
Chaz Haywood is the Rockingham Clerk of the Court, spent much of the opening statement talking about how his faith dictates how he will vote. He is a father of 3, and says we need to reform how we educate our children, as our college tuitions are too high and we need more technical schools. He was a member of the 29th Infantry Division and we need to reform Obama Care and we need more efficient government. He’s also running because he supported Bob Goodlatte and still does now.
Cynthia Dunbar is the Virginia RNC Chairwoman. She is running because we are in the middle of a 2nd American Revolution and is worried about the tyranny of government dependency and that we are getting away from the vision of the Founding Fathers.
Ed Justo, an immigration lawyer, is running because we have too many laws which stifle development. He also says we need to support DACA.
Kathryn Lewis is a small business owner who talked about her kayaking experience and that she is the only one listening to the people. She hints at the need for term limits.
Douglas Wright is a dentist from Harrisonburg and writes on military issues for various magazines. His brother is serving in Afghanistan, and he has an ancestor who fought in the American Revolution. He really liked Trump’s SOTU.
Ben Cline is the delegate from Lexington who was raised in the Valley, and if elected will be a member of the Freedom Caucus on the Hill. He took Valley Values to Richmond and will do the same in Washington.
Elliott Pope is the choice of millennials, and is the only candidate who can talk to young people and make them believe again in the process. Millennials have been lied to by the GOP, and we need to breathe the Constitution into a new generation.
Question 1 – What does it mean to be an outsider
Desjadon – Must not hold political office yet be able to get things done
Haywood – Can you pay attention to the voices not clued into the insiders, and it will be his job to make government more effective.
Dunbar – Means you’re not part of the swamp. Means the changes done are done on behalf of the citizens, not the special interests. She supports Trump and his agenda 100%
Justo – I’m an insider because I am running for office.
Lewis – Having no ties to special interests. Congress was created to allow for “normal people like her” to run.
Wright – Outsiders bring new ideas, but one must be an insider and get new people elected around the nation.
Cline – Outsiders bring new ideas to government, that’s what he has done in Richmond and will continue to do so if elected to Congress.
Elliott Pope. Our country was founded by outsiders and the next Congressman must be an outsider because the Hill is run by insiders. Only he as a millennial can bring accountability to government in Washington.
Question 2 – With the excessive partisanship in DC – how can you bring results?
Haywood – we need to find common ground and put egos aside.
Dunbar – We need to get rid of career politicians and put in people who will do her job. She is running because she can take on the mainstream media outlets like the Huff Post and NY Times and Washington Post all of which despise her.
Justo – We need to redefine what conservatism means – and figure out a way to work with others.
Lewis – Washington has been a joke for her entire life. And everyone should be offended by this fact.
Wright Our Party is the party of ideas – (at this time Mr. Wright went into a dissertation about something which made absolutely no sense)
Cline – it’s about building majority consensus and pushing the ball forward. Making gains until you have achieved something permanent.
Pope – I’m young, scrappy and hungry and won’t throw away my shot. And if you don’t understand that, then you won’t get it. (Exact quote)
Desjadon – Sorry but I have no idea what Pope said – the rest of the answer was incoherent.
Question 3 – Do you think there are any good federal regulations?
Dunbar – Government agencies have set themselves up to be the de facto 4th branch of government. We need to begin with abolishing the Dept of Education
Justo – Mrs. Dunbar is wrong most federal regulations are good.
Lewis – She likes the way that the federal government regulates the size of a dollar bill. Article 1 limits Congress and our laws need to be more uniform
Wright – Let’s all go to Alaska, it’s protected by the feds. There is a role for government, and the EPA, which takes a lot of flak, is necessary.
Cline – we need to de-regulate and dismantle the Energy and Commerce Departments. Some regulations are good which need to be defended – the rest need to go.
Pope – Regulations are more job killing than taxes, but monopolies are more job killing than regulations. We need to enforce rules which allow for monopolies to occur.
Desjadon – Supports the FAA, and says that in absence of real political leadership on the Hill, bureaucrats have taken over.
Haywood – Many federal regulations protect us, but he supports Trump’s removing 2 regs for every new reg added.
Question 4 Are you prepared to be a member of Congress? Please answer as though you are on a job interview.
Justo – I am well versed in the laws
Lewis – My business background makes me the right person to change the way that government sees things into a business from a bureaucracy.
Wright – Tells a story which is non-sensical and then says “I am a writer, therefore I will be a good Congressman”
Cline – I have the experience and the proven success to take Valley Values to DC.
Pope – being a homeschool graduate and an associate pastor makes him the right person to understand the needs of the people and to carry our values to DC
Desjadon – Be afraid of anyone who answers this question too well, as they’ve obviously been running for Congress all of their lives.
Haywood. No one knows the 6th District better than he does. He baled hay as a kid and worked for both Bob Goodlatte and George Allen.
Dunbar, this is not a job interview. Quite frankly my resume does not matter. What you the voters think of my resume and who I am is what matters.
Question 5 – Congress finds itself unable to get things done. How do we compromise to get legislation passed?
Lewis – it’s your responsibility to tell your Congresswoman what to do and what you need.
Wright – Was horrified by how Congress acted during the SOTU (I am assuming he meant how the Democrats acted?) and that he will travel to other districts to get new Congressmen elected.
Cline – Washington is incapable of doing the right thing, which is why we need to return power to the states.
Pope – This is a false dichotomy. I will compromise on everything and nothing at the same time. And we need to redefine what winning means so that we don’t trap ourselves in the future.
Desjadon – Compromise has become a dirty word, and we need to get away from that idea. Talks about how he has worked with medical insurers and with Medicaid to help people get treatment and price reductions that they need.
Haywood – Business is better than ever, the economy is booming, we should thank Donald Trump and Congress for this fact.
Dunbar – I am the candidate the left and GOP establishment fears the most because I have a proven record of getting things done and never compromising.
Justo – Compromise is a good thing and we have turned it into a bad word.
6– The 6th District is so large, how much experience do you have in office management?
Wright – has run 2 dental offices.
Cline – Constituent services are very important as he showed when working on the Hill for Bob Goodlatte; he can manage the staff well as he has already done.
Pope – Manages teams of workers in the real world. But it’s not about being a manager; it’s about being a visionary.
Desjadon – Has managed teams, and talks about the need for bosses to hire people who may be smarter than they are so they can get things done.
Haywood – Agrees with Cline that management is important. And that as a former staffer for Bob Goodlatte and George Allen, he knows the importance of constituent services.
Dunbar – I’m not running to be a manager, I’m running to be your Congresswoman. Management is left up to staff.
Justo – I’m not an office manager, but will be the best constituent services manager.
Lewis – It’s tough to fire someone but we need to start firing people on Capitol Hill. We need to hire the best people but she will do the talking to the people of the 6th CD.
7- The sexual assault cases (presumably on Capitol Hill) are a serious matter, what new laws will you pass to ensure these things never occur again?
Cline – It’s an issue which needs to be handled, and most don’t understand the issue. I do, and will be able to help from Day 1 to fight for the people of the 6th CD
Pope – what happened here was one person saying “enough is enough” and that one person became 2, and then swelled to millions. This is the power of social media, showing what can be done when one person takes on the system. We don’t need new laws.
Desjadon – We have lost our moral compass and like most everyone I am sickened by the slush fund.
Haywood. Our laws on the books are already good, but we need to publicize the shush fund.
Dunbar – Found the entire matter disgusting but this is why we need to return to limited government as envisioned by the Founders. It’s not a federal issue but a moral issue.
Justo – Shush fund is disgusting – we don’t need laws telling idiotic men to put their pants on.
Lewis – She proposed this question, we need to pass laws to ensure that men know enough is enough.
Wright – Has employed a lot of women. Sexual assault takes away from the dignity of having a job.
Question 8 – How will your previous career help you do your job in Congress?
Pope – Is the only guy running here who has calluses on his hands. It’s not about passing legislation; it’s about teaching freedom to a new generation.
Desjadon, Healthcare is the largest private employer in the Valley; we need to get healthier as a people to reduce health care costs.
Haywood – God gave him 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. My work for George Allen and Bob Goodlatte is why he is the best choice.
Dunbar, the Texas Board of Education is the most powerful Board in the USA. She sat on it and took on the educationists when we changed how textbooks would be viewed, and it gained her no friends. Received death threats from this, but slogged on. She can get things done.
Justo – Is a lawyer and know the US Constitution very well. He also knows European constitutions and that can be of assistance.
Lewis – also has calluses on her hands. Her skill set is being married to a blue collar guy keeps her grounded.
Wright – Healthcare means multitasking (his exact words)
Cline – as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and as a member of the House of Delegates Conservative Caucus – he understands Valley Values better than anyone. Laws change as culture changes. And he will articulate Valley Values on the Hill.
1 – Do you support Trump Publicly?
Desjadon – Yes other than when he gets on Twitter. I’m not a politician
Haywood – Will stand with Trump to create jobs
Dunbar. Her record has been very public and she supported Trump ever since he was the nominee and will help Trump drain the swamp In Washington.
Justo – supports Trump, especially on the immigration reform/DACA package
Lewis – we need to honor the office and is disgusting by the hatred coming from the Democrats
Wright – voted for Trump and was impressed by the SOTU
Cline – Supported Trump once he got the nomination. And the VA State Chair of Trump 2016 has endorsed Cline for Congress.
Pope – Supports Trump 95% of the time, refuses to be a rubber stamp for anyone or anything. Says we need to change the tone of debate in Washington.
2 – If you get elected how will you get the parties to work together?
Haywood – I’m not Jesus Christ. We need to change the culture.
Dunbar – Prayer is important but people need to understand that authority comes from the people not the government. We need fewer career politicians.
Justo – Mormons say and do good things. And pass it along. We need to work together. (his exact words)
Lewis – Unity is important. There is no one simple answer. People need to stand up and say enough is enough.
Wright – Young people like Trump and his agenda. It’s about ideas.
Cline – Country is united on one thing, a hatred for Congress. We need a government that works for the people not for the bureaucracy.
Pope – polarization is what makes Congress dysfunctional. Campaign strategists are responsible for this. And we need to get rid of campaign strategists.
Desjadon – To Barack Obama, hope is not a strategy. Congressmen need to work for the people, Trump represents the will of the people and so should we.
3 – How many Muslim immigrants have been settled in Virginia in the past year?
Dunbar – Too many. Most have not been vetted which is why she supports Trump on securing our border.
Justo – IN the past few years we have seen 160,000 Kurds come here (Not sure if he meant Virginia or the US) most of them were translators who helped out the US army in Iraq. So not all Muslims are bad people. We can’t be insulting every Muslim.
Lewis – Immigration is a huge issue and we need better vetting.
Wright – We can’t be expected to know everything. Let’s talk to the governors and see what they say and go from there.
Cline – Sick and tired of Democrats calling us racists each time we want to support our own borders. Has passed laws on gun rights which will be going to the Governor’s office soon, which he has promised to veto.
Pope – Immigration needs to be broken down into different categories. We need to take people in who will not either be welfare recipients, criminals, and immigrants need to help the labor force.
Desjadon – Few of us are native to the US. We need to get good people in here. Our immigration system needs to be merit based.
Haywood – We have 56 different languages spoken in Rocklingham/Harrisonburg schools. And we need to put an end to chain migration.
Justo does not like a lot of conservative positions and don’t blame the government for too many Muslims in the US, blame Christian church officials who have sponsored them.
Lewis says that we need term limits and that the 6th District of Va should lead the way.
Wright – tells a story about WWII which was not possible for me to follow
Cline – Ben Franklin stated we have a Republic if the citizens can keep it. Liberals are killing this nation. And we need to embrace a freedom agenda and that well done is better than well said.
Pope – Asks the audience what any of them has done to preserve our freedom. My BS meter goes off anytime I hear someone saying we need to support our president 100%. Americans are over marketed and it’s about who can take the next generation and make them conservatives. We are near a tipping point.
Desjadon – Former boxer. But the fighter he always feared was not the loudmouth, but the guy who did his job quietly. We need to stop electing screamers and elect doers.
Haywood – Worried for his grandkids. Are we preparing our nation?
Dunbar, it’s about saving our nation and electing people who are prepared on the battlefield of ideas. Our politicians are now wimps. To Make America Great Again we need to make America good again. Christ is my Lord and Savior, and we need more Christians in government, this is her cause.
My own thoughts/grades
First off, every one of these 8 fine accomplished persons should be thanked for standing up to try and make Virginia and the Valley a better place. Quite frankly, there are 3 candidates with a legitimate pathway to the nomination and 5 who are either long shots or trying to get their name out there for the future. So I will give a grade to the 3 candidates who have a real path to the nomination first and then rank the other 5 secondly.
The Top 3 Contenders
Cynthia Dunbar A+. Mrs. Dunbar is tough, fierce, and knows how to get her point across well. She received several long ovations for her answers – and this crowd was largely unaffiliated. Mrs. Dunbar further cemented her status as the strict constitutionalist who will help Trump get his agenda through Congress and won’t succumb to House Leadership. Will be a member of the Freedom Caucus on the Hill.
Ben Cline – A+. After a rather shaky outing at Weyers Cave the previous weekend, Delegate Cline showed why he is also a frontrunner, by talking calmly yet persuasively about the need for limited government. His applause lines weren’t as many as were Dunbar’s, but he got his point across well. And showed that he would be ready from Day 1 to be on Capitol Hill and a member of the GOP Freedom Caucus and not beholden to the power brokers of DC.
Chaz Haywood – D+. Haywood had a good outing at Weyers Cave, but came into Saturday being out of sorts. He talked about the need to reform government, which is all fine, other than more and more Republicans are of the idea that we need less government, not reformed government. Haywood missed several opportunities to talk about his vision, and instead talked about things which were incoherent. It was almost as though he had his answers written and memorized before hand and that he answered the questions with the right words but wrong emotions. But this is an extremely talented man who is putting together a good GOTV in the Northern part of the District, and can win the nomination. But he needs to bring his A game at the next forum to inspire his volunteers. Haywood does his best when talking about education reform, something most everyone would agree with. He is at his worst when he hints that he will be a manager of federal regulations rather than someone who wants to get rid of as many unnecessary regulations as possible.
The remaining 5 candidates.
Of the 8 different candidates, the one who impresses me most as an underdog is Elliott Pope. He speaks clearly and articulates things which need to be said, and one can see him talking to 18-22 year olds and getting them to like the GOP instead of being Bernie fans. He thinks outside the box – something I really like. With that being said, Mr. Pope has little chance to win the nomination. He is one of the 3 most articulate candidates (Dunbar and Cline being the other 2), however the one comment about being young scrappy and hungry left everyone in the audience (most of us not being millennials) scratching our heads and wondering if we need our Geritol. But many of us will one day be voting for Mr. Pope for some office. After Dunbar, Pope received the most applauses from the audience. Clearly Elliott Pope has found a way to inspire voters. However without much of an organization he will be hard pressed to bring enough supporters to JMU come May. But he will get some votes at the Convention in May. Mr. Pope gets an A.
Mike Desjadon is also a talented man who has a future in elected office – He is very coherent and speaks well and from the heart. I did not put in all of the words from each candidate (for time’s sake) and my only criticism of Desjadon is that he needs to talk a bit less about how he is a Healthcare professional and a bit more about how his being a healthcare professional will help the average voter. This is also a talented man who will one day be serving some or all of the residents of CD 6. His answer regarding anyone who answers the questions well about why they should be in Congress being a good reason not to trust them was brilliant. Give Mr. Desjadon a B.
Kathryn Lewis had a very good performance at Weyers Cave, and quite frankly, was not very impressive at Front Royal. Her inability to memorize her own 2 minute stump speech (she read it directly from 3×5 cards never looking at the audience) and her talking about kayaking during much of her stump speech do not inspire confidence. However Ms. Lewis is very articulate and quite intelligent as she showed when it came to questions and answers. Ms. Lewis also has a bright future in elected politics. She needs more seasoning. Her best answer was talking about putting business practices into place in government. Give her a C.
Ed Justo is a very smart man, but is not a serious candidate for Congress, and the fact that he keeps talking about support for DACA shows that he is out of touch with the voters of CD 6. Mr. Justo would be an outstanding counsel for a congressional Committee. But he is clearly out of his depth here. Mr. Justo gets a D+
Dr. Wright could neither give a clear answer as to why he was running for Congress, and many of his answers were either incoherent or at times, nonsensical. He is obviously an intelligent man, anyone who writes on defense policy is intelligent, but his intelligence does not come through when talking. And by his own answers, he says vote for me for Congress because I write well. Where the job of a Congressman is mostly about negotiations and being a TV presence and knowing people in the community. Dr. Wright evidenced none of these necessary skills. Sadly one must give Dr. Wright an F.