6th District Chairman’s Race Offers a Fresh Face

There’s only been one day that politics and political fights drove me to such depths of depression that I had to use means of liquid courage.  That day was in May of 2016. It was the day of the Sixth Congressional District Republican Convention.

Just as a refresher to set the scene, Donald Trump already had a lock on the presidential nomination, but there was still a battle royale going on inside the Republican power structure within the Sixth District in the months leading up to the May convention. Wendell Walker (a true saint of a human being and a dear friend) had been run out as Sixth District chairman by anti-Goodlatte forces who strived to take the District. Even though the Congressman and his supporters put up retired State Senator Ralph Smith for chair, he was not my first choice, but with the help of the young advisors he had around him I thought he could do the job.

I’ll never forget, as long as I live and breathe, the night and day that came just a few months later. It was late and I was about to go to bed. That’s when it was announced on Facebook that Senator Smith would be leaving the race for Sixth District Chairman after the deadline to file for chair had passed. I was so angry….

Forget the word angry. I was pissed. I wanted to lay those responsible on a chopping block and chop them up like a Christmas goose. As news of Smith’s withdrawal spread, Bearing Drift colleague Lynn Mitchell and I conferred on the phone that night until well after midnight. Upset at a situation we felt could have been avoided, we worked together on an article announcing the latest turn of events, and I went to bed seething with white-hot anger.

Then I had one of the most surreal moments of my life. Some may know that I have a thyroid issue that has to be checked every two years. It’s just a standard MRI so I went to Carillion hospital that morning and, after prepping for the MRI, was surprised to learn that I could pick any radio station while the machine took pictures of my thyroid (kinda cool, right?).

I chose to listen to the local talk radio station that morning to see if anything would be said about the Sixth District race. Sure enough, while going through the MRI process, I listened to the host of the radio show read my colleague’s article verbatim on the radio. It was one of those out of body experiences that was surreal.

Which left us with Scott Sayre….

This is where I get back to that fateful day in May of 2016. My Congressman, Bob Goodlatte, was in the middle of a primary from Harry Griego. Griego’s supporters had chosen to plaster the convention hall (and the outside facade of the building) with all sorts of nasty signs. I helped the Goodlatte team put out signs that morning, knowing that in the back of my mind I was going to have a bad day. But, the feeling of electing Scott Sayre, the only chair candidate on the ballot after the withdrawal of Smith, felt like a punch in the gut.

Scott Sayre is a Richard Gere look-alike with the attitude of a Disney villain. The man looks like he’s out of central casting in Hollywood, from the salt and pepper hair that is never out of place, to the chiseled jawline, to the suits that he wears that are ever so neatly pressed. He’s also undyingly charming, making little old ladies feel beloved.

But then there’s his attitude, which is that of a Disney villain. His words drip with syrupy venom, making people either feel like he totally loves them, or making them want to watch their backs. He’s quick to lay blame on the establishment. Sayre never lets a moment go by without letting you know that he can solve all the Sixth District’s problems, so long as you give him just a little more political power. His sloganeering, his constant need to inflate an ego that makes his head the size of the state of Montana, his desperate need for political glory, stunk to high heaven. Something wasn’t right.

Then there’s his push for a data system called rVotes. I’ve never really understood why he’s pushing this system because it’s just a really crappy data system. The only candidate I know of who has used it and won was the sheriff of Roanoke County. Countless times, including two Harry Griego campaigns, the campaign of E.W. Jackson, and the city council candidates that ran in Roanoke City in 2014, campaigns lost with this data system.

However, everywhere Sayre went, he was pushing rVotes’ data system down everyone’s throats like a used car salesman trying to sell you a used Kia Rio. Some speculated he was getting paid, some speculated he was a partial owner of the company, some just thought he was driven. Either way, it was almost as if he desperately needed every committee in the Sixth to buy this data system.

Anyway, back to the convention. There was a fair share of Goodlatte bashing, but the day revolved around Sayre. This was his day, his day of political reckoning. I felt sick to my stomach during his speech, and almost stood up to speak when the motion was made for him to be nominated by acclamation, but decided not to. As they passed out the ballots at that convention, I died a little on the inside seeing his name, and his name only, in the chairman’s spot. I quickly marked his name out, and wrote in, “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.” I figured if I had to vote for someone who was going to act like a monarch, I should at least vote for a monarch that I liked.

I left the convention before they announced the winners, feeling defeated, and went home, pouring myself a stiff drink at 2:00 pm in the afternoon.

Now, it’s two years later. The Sixth District is in terrible shape. Our well-liked Congressman is retiring and the anti-Goodlatte forces could not be happier. It was heavily rumored that before Goodlatte’s formal announcement, they were conspiring to run RNC National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar for Congress. I am fairly certain Dunbar’s announcement was running 30 seconds after Goodlatte tweeted out news of his retirement.

For the past two years, the Sixth District has done little-to-nothing to elect Republicans. Reports of Lexington and Lynchburg having separate victory offices, with one being run by Sayre and company, the other being run by the state GOP or the Trump campaign, were rampant. While the state party and local House of Delegates candidates used i360 to collect voter data, the Sayre crew collected data with rVotes (notice a pattern here?).

During that time I served as chairman of the Roanoke Valley Young Republicans and, during my tenure, I never heard from Sayre or his lieutenants. Previously, no matter where the meetings were held around the Roanoke Valley, Chairman Wendell Walker and his wife Patsy attended and would always offer to help in whatever way possible. Not during Scott Sayre’s term, no sir; we got radio silence. Being a Young Republican Chairman is not the most important job in the party but a phone call or email offering help would have been appreciated.

Lastly, and most importantly, Sayre and his lieutenants set up the 2018 6th Congressional District Republican Convention (of course they picked a convention because they can control who gets nominated) with rules that are primed in favor of Cynthia Dunbar. Watch the tape as a Dunbar supporter on the 6th District uses some wild conspiracy as the reason to choose a plurality vote which means a candidate needs only the most votes, not a majority, to win the nomination. Plurality voting is extremely rare and is not remembered being used in the past in the 6th District.

We have someone to challenge Sayre. Jennifer Brown, the Sixth District Republican Social Media Chair, announced that she would seek the Sixth District Republican Chairmanship. Brown, an attorney and animal-rights activist, hails from the Harrisonburg area. An avid supporter of President Trump, she is unapologetic in who she likes in the Republican Party.

Here’s her announcement video, and here’s the statement announcing her candidacy:

“My name is Jennifer M. Brown, and I am running to be Chair of the 6th District Republican Committee.  I have served as the social media manager for the Republican Women of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County, Harrisonburg City Republican Committee and the Rockingham County Republican Committee for the past few years, as well as the Communications Chair for the Rockingham County Republican Committee and the Social Media Chair for the 6th District Republican Committee for the past year.

“I, like so many of us, cannot stand continuously losing to Democrats.  Virginia, like its people, is strong and resilient.  But, in order to find our strength to start winning again, we must look to the strengths of our people, and, we need each and every Republican here in the 6th District in order to succeed. That is why I am announcing my candidacy for 6th District Chair.

“We can no longer withstand the inner party conflicts if we are going to regain our strength.  We also need to find new methods to reach more voters if we are going to outvote our opponents.  But, in order to do this, we need a leader who is willing to work with everyone, and to listen to the heart of our District, the people.

“If you are dismayed by the decisions that were made by the current leadership at the 6th District Meeting on January 6 regarding our, the people’s, Convention, you are not alone.  What transpired was not what the current leadership promised to you, when they campaigned for having conventions instead of primaries.  It is also not what you, the people of the 6th District, would have voted for if you were allowed a voice.  Your choice was made for you, instead of as a Delegate at the Convention.  A plurality vote is not a convention, it is a primary masquerading as a convention, and you are supposed to be happy with that decision.  As Chair, I will listen to each of you, you will have a voice in what happens in our District, and I will follow the rules of the Party.

“We just experienced a devastating loss in 2017, and we cannot afford more losses in 2018 and 2019.  There is absolutely too much at stake, especially as the fate of the Commonwealth for the next decade hangs in the balance with redistricting that will take place after the 2020 Census.  I will bring a new and vibrant perspective to how we can engage new voters, encourage our base, support our President’s agenda and our candidates, and get Virginia winning again.  Now more than ever, we need to work together to keep the Democrats from turning the 6th District blue.

“I am proud to be a true conservative with Virginia roots.  As a graduate of Harrisonburg High School and Bridgewater College, the 6th District has been an integral part of my life.  I have always fought for what I believed in which led me into the political realm upon graduation from law school, and why I actively campaigned for President Trump, served as the Shenandoah Valley Regional Director for Corey Stewart for Governor, and actively supported and assisted our Republican candidates both locally and statewide for past several election cycles.

“I am encouraged by what the future holds for the 6th District, and I look forward to speaking with you to find out how we can work together to keep the 6th District red for future generations.  I hope I can earn your support, for united we stand a better chance to win against the Democrats, and we can no longer withstand failing because we remain divided.  It is absolutely essential that we be united and move forward as one, for each election from here on out is critical.  I hope you will join me to fight for unity and liberty.

“If you want to be a voice in the future of our Party, and the direction of the 6th District, please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up for email updates, so that together, we can take back Virginia.”

My introduction to Jennifer came over the telephone. She was fully warned that I was not the biggest Trump supporter in the Sixth District. I talked to her that day for over an hour, just getting to know her. Her honesty, the sheer sense that she was listening to me, and her determination seem unmatched. Her heart for 6th District politics is vast, as is her knowledge of the inner workings of the party. She is 100 percent against this power grab made by Sayre and company to have a plurality vote, and is 100 percent for the involvement of young people in the Republican Party.

Her investment into Young Republicans and College Republicans is unmatched. Just in the past few weeks, Jennifer has attended and spoken at the meetings of College Republicans and Young Republicans all across the district. When the convention date was scheduled for the same day as Liberty University’s graduation, Jennifer was one of the first of our party leaders to denounce the decision. Most importantly, when the College Republican Federation was held in Roanoke this past weekend, Jennifer not only spoke at the event but helped sponsor it. Scott Sayre was nowhere to be found at the CRFV convention that was held in his own district.

Also, it’s so good to hear someone in politics who is interested in something besides politics. Her animal rights activism shows she’s not a robot or a power-hungry political animal. As the proud parent of two of the best cats in the world, I am happy to see someone involved politically who loves our four-legged friends.

For once, the Sixth District has a chance with a candidate who isn’t trying to sell us a data system or benefit themselves. By having a desire to serve Republicans, she also believes in the dreams of the GOP’s future by actually engaging with young Republicans. Jennifer Brown is a breath of fresh air that the Sixth District needs.

More from Bearing Drift on this issue….
Ben Cline Calls Out the Rigging of the 6th Congressional District
Lynchburg GOP Chair Protests 6th District Vote
6th District Chooses Convention
Dunbar In Alabama Helping Roy Moore

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