Storrs: Looking Ahead, Moving the Republican Party Forward

By Craig Storrs, Jr.

They say politics is a contact sport. Certainly the Sixth Congressional District has proved that in dividends this election cycle.

I was duly selected by the Sixth Congressional District Committee to fill an unexpired term as Central Regional Vice-Chairman in November. Since then I’ve learned a lot about perception. As John Whitbeck put it, this is politics. Perception is everything.

After my selection, I began to learn (or intimate) why I was selected to fill the term. Some opinions were that I was going to be a “yes-man” for Scott Sayre and be a foot soldier for Cynthia Dunbar. One opinion is that a certain influence secured my seat. To be clear, I only want the seat based on my credentials and my ability to do the job.

Very shortly after my selection to the Sixth District Committee we began to be plagued by controversy. Plurality vs. majority, selecting the Liberty University Commencement date as the date for the convention, banning media from the floor, banning campaigning from the floor, banning children from the floor. I oppose any of those bans and I call on the delegates and I call on the delegates to overwhelmingly repudiate Scott’s attempt to shield himself and Cynthia Dunbar from media scrutiny. I particularly find the ban on children from the floor distressing. Allow me to explain why.

There are a few demographics that Democrats consistently beat the Republicans in year after year: millennials, women, and minorities. I became involved in Republican Party politics as a freshman in high school (age 14). Under these current rules, the freshman-year Craig Storrs is ineligible to witness the Republican Party in action and is ineligible to witness the contested selection of a Republican nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

We need to be promoting a culture in the Republican Party that embraces the family, not one that (literally) splits them apart to decide the future of the country.

I wanted to take this opportunity (and many thanks to the editors at Bearing Drift for allowing me to write this op-ed) to explain what I want to accomplish on the Sixth District Committee.

You’ll note that my platform is similar to Jennifer Brown’s because we see eye-to-eye on the big issues facing the Republican Party. I believe these issues are the way forward.

Millennial Voters, Women Voters and Legal Minority Voters

We’ve heard for years that the Democratic Party is the party for the youth. Certainly we’ve seen that in the press lately with liberal college campuses inundated with college students who feel the need for “safe spaces” after being confronted with conservative Republican viewpoints, or college students who feel the need to be militant when they hear a speaker who disagrees with them.

I was fortunate enough to graduate, twice (and working on my third), from Liberty University where a difference of opinion is welcomed and respected – as evidenced by Bernie Sanders speaking at convocation and Jimmy Carter speaking at commencement.

However, we are seeing the advantage the Democrats have in this area whittle away. The latest from Reuters had the Democratic advantage down roughly 9 points to around 46 percent. That’s huge. I want to work with Jennifer Brown to continue to whittle away at this gap between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party – and turn it into an advantage for us.

Scott Sayre hasn’t even acknowledged this as an issue. Wendell Walker, my counterpart in this convention, has acknowledged that the Republican Party needs to continue to grow their youth base. That’s why I was so happy to receive his endorsement for Central Regional Vice-Chairman.

With women voters, the Republicans face a harder up-hill climb. The Hill gives Democrats a 20 point advantage over Republicans with women voters. The Republican Party of today is not an exclusive clique designed to keep people out, but we should always be attempting to rebrand without straying from what actually makes us Republicans to show how what our party has to offer that makes us the better choice.

Another major problem is that the Democratic Party has constantly portrayed the Republican Party as racist. I find that illustration abhorrent and insulting – but it seems to have resonated with “minority” voters. This is despite the fact that the Republican Party has put up more “minority” candidates than the Democratic Party. I put “minority” in quotes, because I don’t view candidates on the basis of skin color or ethnicity. I view them on the basis of their platforms. We need to be more proactive about reaching out to these voters and finding solutions.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, I’d be remiss if I didn’t finalize my thoughts on the state of the Sixth District Committee and Convention. I’ve been called everything from politically naïve to a nobody and everything in-between.

I’m originally from Pennsylvania. Politics there is much different than Virginia, to be sure. For example, did you know that in order to serve on your county’s party committee you have to be elected on the ballot? That’s how I won my partial term (I had surgery in late 2016, so I had to step aside) — by getting elected as a write-in to the Northampton County Republican Committee.

I also have a combined total of 14 years of political experience, including stints as a campaign manager, campaign staff, legislative assistant, and staff for a political issue group.

Yet I’ve been called all those things for demanding fairness, transparency, and honesty from Scott Sayre and the Sixth District Committee leadership – and for demanding that our candidates adhere to an above-board approach to this campaign.

Cynthia Dunbar’s employment by Scott Sayre and receiving, ironically, the filing fee or more in stipend raises eyebrows. I can’t say for certain whether or not that’s what was going through Cynthia and Scott’s minds when they did that – that’s between them, the FEC, and God. However, I can say that it is a prima facie case against Scott Sayre as to why he shouldn’t be District Chairman, and it is a prima facie case against Cynthia Dunbar as to why she shouldn’t be in Congress.

Jennifer Brown and I plan to bring fairness, transparency, and honesty back to the Sixth District Committee. In my opinion, this begins by taking our time and not rushing the process.

This also includes making procedures for the District uniform. For a Sixth District Convention, the paperwork should be the same from Warren to Roanoke to Lynchburg to Highland. It does not concern me if Warren County wants to utilize individualized paperwork for events that are simply overseen by Warren County, but if it’s a Sixth District function, it needs to be uniform Sixth District paperwork.

For all these reasons and many, many, more, I ask that you repudiate the swamp tactics of Scott Sayre and Cynthia Dunbar. Send a message that these tactics have no place in the Shenandoah Valley. Send a clear, convincing, message that the way forward is embracing fairness, transparency and honesty – and the best way to do that is to elect Jennifer Brown as District Chairman and re-elect Craig Storrs as Central Regional Vice-Chairman.

I look forward to meeting you in Harrisonburg on Saturday!