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How to Put a Safe Congressional Seat in Play

Republicans in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District seem eager to do something that hasn’t happened in the Valley for a generation: Give Democrats a chance to win.

House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte is not seeking reelection. Del. Ben Cline (R-Amherst), the presumed heir to the seat, declared his candidacy almost immediately.

So have a slew of other candidates, including Virginia’s GOP national committeewoman, Cynthia Dunbar, who most recently was seen campaigning for [1] U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore in Alabama.

It would have made for a great primary election — except the district’s Republican committee decided it would hold a convention instead. A convention is not as inclusive or determinative as a primary, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That was until the committee decided the nominee would be chosen by a plurality of the vote rather than a majority. That’s when the controversy, the conspiracy theories and the opening for Democrats all began to meet.

First, the controversy.

Cline challenged the committee’s voting decision. On his website [2], Cline wrote the choice was an effort “to rig the convention to help their chosen candidate because they do not believe their candidate of choice is strong enough to win a majority of delegates under the standard Convention rules.”

Cline went on to say that it was up to convention delegates, not the committee, to decide the rules.

Former Republican Party of Virginia general counsel Lee Goodman said Cline has a solid point, telling Roanoke Times reporter Carmen Forman [3] that a committee “cannot dictate the rules that govern the Convention in the Call or otherwise, including the rule governing vote thresholds because the Convention itself retains authority to determine its own rules.”

So who is the committee’s preferred candidate?

All eyes turn to the colorful Dunbar.

Continue reading here. [4]