On Saturday, the Sixth District Republican Committee held their fourth and final forum before the nominating convention. Seven out of eight candidates participated in this debate, with one candidate thinking that a Disney World trip was more important than getting to know the voters. (Those of you who know me, know that I love Disney World more than anywhere else on the planet, but dude — you’re running for office; get your priorities right!)
In this article, I am going to grade the candidates on their performance, their stances on the issues, and their attitude during the forum. Just a note: I have formally endorsed Ben Cline for Congress. I admit to being 100 percent biased in my grades and, frankly, I don’t care what your thoughts are about my biases.
THE GOOD …
Mike Desjadon: A-
I have to say that the best performance of the forum went to a guy I had never met. Mike Desjadon is a healthcare analyst from Augusta County. His expertise is healthcare policy and relating to millennials. Showing up to the forum in a sport coat and jeans, this young 36-year-old candidate showed his youth and vitality. Stylistically laid back and honest, Mike earns the award for the candidate I most want to have a beer with. Which, in fact, happened but I’ll get to that later.
On policy, his answers were fantastic. He effortlessly expressed his thoughts on federalism and states rights. He gave an excellent infrastructure proposal on Interstate 81. He gave great answers on immigration, gun rights, and entitlement reform.
This guy is the real future of the Republican Party. He may not be the guy to be the nominee on May 19th, but we certainly will not have seen the last of Mike Desjadon.
Delegate Ben Cline: A-
Ben Cline is the most experienced of the candidates, and rightfully so. Ten years serving on the staff of Congressman Bob Goodlatte and then 15 years in the House of Delegates have prepared Ben for this moment in his life. Armed with his vast policy knowledge and his “aw shucks” country lawyer attitude, Ben Cline is in this race to win.
Delegate Cline laid out his stances with ease and expertise. There is no candidate better on gun rights. From his National Rifle Association A+ rating, to his NRA lapel pin, to his defiant stance on the 2nd Amendment, Ben Cline is the strongest supporter of the 2nd Amendment of this crop of candidates.
Ben also gave a great answer about Interstate 81. He wants to put more state troopers on the interstate for traffic enforcement, more infrastructure spending on the tight bottlenecks, and increasing rail funding so that more freight can be moved by train instead of trucks. According to Delegate Cline, Interstate 81 was supposed to only have 15 percent tractor trailer traffic. That number has now doubled, which has led to a traffic nightmare.
Ben summed up his candidacy with a quote from Founding Father Benjamin Franklin: “Well done is better than well said.” We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Cline. Your record shows that you have actually served and actually know what you are doing. He does not need an instruction manual for Congress because he already wrote the instruction manual on how to govern.
Chaz Heywood: A-
Can I just admit that I like Chaz? Chaz is just easy to be around. He’s got a good heart, he’s honest, and he’s just a good person. If it wasn’t for knowing Ben and Elizabeth Cline for a long time before the convention, I would probably be in Chaz’s camp.
Chaz is the sitting Clerk of Court in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. He’s also a veteran of the Goodlatte and Senator George Allen D.C. office. Constituent Services are his forte; he never forgets to mention how he has made government more efficient.
Chaz had a great performance. He should be proud of his efforts.
Kathryn Lewis: B+
I like Kathyrn a lot. She brings a youthfulness and vitality to the congressional race. She’s also got a good head on her shoulders and is not afraid to admit her faults. She gave solid answers, although some were a little too typical of a Republican candidate. She’s got a ways to go, but Ms. Lewis has a bright future in the Republican Party.
Ed Justo: B
After he alleged that Cynthia Dunbar was being fed the answers in the last forum, Ed Justo came ready to throw fire in this debate. He was honest, sometimes a little too honest, when answering questions. He has some stances that are outside of the mainstream of Sixth District GOP politics, but he’s honest and he’ll do fairly well.
THE BAD …
Doug Wright: C-
Dr. Wright seems like a nice guy and he did give me a toothbrush (he’s a dentist, it makes sense). However, his answer on gun rights was just downright convoluted. He wanted to institute a national militia to train people to have guns. My question is, don’t we have that? It’s called the National Guard. Is Dr. Wright saying only the National Guard should have guns? I’m just confused.
Elliot Pope: D
He didn’t even bother to show up. His trip to Disney World was more important than meeting the voters of Roanoke. He did, however, send a video message.
THE UGLY …
Cynthia Dunbar: F
Cynthia Dunbar is everything wrong in the Republican Party wrapped up in a big red box with a big red bow on her head. She’s just so wrong! On every single issue she is just wrong.
Of course, she begins the debate  with this ridiculous, contrived tactic. Most of you have probably heard of the allegations that Ms. Dunbar was being fed the answers in the last debate via an iPad in front of her. Ms. Dunbar began this debate asking for a point of personal privilege. It’s not even a meeting judged by Robert’s Rules of Order, but I digress. She then proceeds to have the most rehearsed move in the history of political debates, exclaiming that she had nothing up her sleeve, nothing in her ear, and she was acting on her own. Then she wanted everyone to not use notes during the forum.
To which I say:
REALLY, CYNTHIA? REALLY? You just reminded every single person in the room that you were accused of cheating in the last forum! You just reminded every single person of the convention rules allegedly set up in your favor. You just reminded everyone why we don’t like you.
Again, I digress.
Then she proceeds to quote the Preamble to the Constitution, twice. Within five minutes, she quoted the Preamble to the Constitution. Anytime that she didn’t know the answer to a question, she would just quote scripture or bring up the enumerated powers of the Constitution. If I took a shot of liquor every time she said enumerated powers, I would have had to take an Uber home because I would have been DRUNK!
That’s all this woman is about is buzzwords and Bible references. She has no thoughts of her own; everything is based on her narrow view of the Bible and the Constitution. She’s a religious theocrat, believing that God is the only solution to all of government’s problems. It’s like she’s the political lovechild of Roy Moore (who Cynthia Dunbar campaigned for ) and the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.
Her answer on Interstate 81 was disastrous and ridiculous. She stated the Constitution did not allow for the federal government to maintain roads. Did she rip the Interstate Commerce Clause out of her Constitution?! Did she rip out the General Welfare Clause of her Constitution? Ms. Dunbar’s answer not only shows her ignorance, but it shows her absolute obliviousness to the problems facing the Sixth District.
Oh, and it gets worse. She also showed how much of a nativist she is, blaming illegal immigrants for crime, voter fraud, and welfare fraud. She claimed she would be such a good Congress rep that they wouldn’t need to have an Article V Convention. If she didn’t know the answer, back to quoting the Constitution.
How could I forget her attitude during the forum? She had three moods during the debate. There were times when she was bored, so she stared off into space or stared at her manicure. There were times where she looked arrogant and smug. Then there were times Ms. Dunbar looked like she was having a panic attack, to which her campaign manager Matt Tedrick (instigator of the plurality rule for the convention ) appeared to be coaching her. Tedrick sat in the front row, not five feet from Cynthia, and seemed to be sending signals and cues during the entire forum. If you don’t believe me, watch the tape.
If we nominate Cynthia Dunbar, we will lose this congressional seat. Case Closed.
Overall, the forum (minus that one candidate) was a great time to be had and I learned much about the candidates. Let’s hope we nominate a strong candidate for this congressional seat.
Photos by Matt Hall