Cynthia Dunbar: Two House Races, Two Weeks, Too Hungry for Power

You can’t make this stuff up.

Two weeks after losing her bid for Congress in Virginia’s Sixth District at the May 19th convention, Cynthia Dunbar is at it again, running to succeed retiring Congressman Tom Garrett in the neighboring Fifth District, which became open following Tom’s unexpected withdrawal. Dunbar seeks the nomination at the Fifth District meeting scheduled for this Saturday, June 2nd, where Garrett’s replacement will be chosen by 37 voting members over successive rounds of balloting.

Dunbar’s candidacy in the Sixth attracted quite a bit of controversy, with opponents alleging she rigged the process to her benefit, broke numerous party ethics rules, and attempted to disenfranchise Republican delegates on baseless grounds. She was even named in two complaints to the Federal Election Commission alleging an illegal financial arrangement with the district’s outgoing chairman, who had been working to benefit her campaign behind the scenes. Months earlier, Dunbar crafted a secret plot with the chairman to challenge Congressman Bob Goodlatte, long before he announced his retirement.

In a convention whose preparations “alarmed” RPV Chairman John Whitbeck, Dunbar was dealt a shocking first ballot defeat after failing to tilt the rules in her favor or disqualify enough Republicans supporting her chief opponent, Ben Cline.

Now, Dunbar is pursuing the nomination in the Fifth. Her campaign team is actively contacting voting members to make their pitch before the Saturday meeting.

“Here are talking points for Saturday,” wrote campaign coordinator Diana Shores, in a group email to supporters on the committee. “We need to remember there is 2 minutes of talking per committee member between rounds. We are building momentum and I am hoping a round 2 isn’t needed.”

“We are working on a website and that will be forthcoming.”

Attached to the email were three documents with talking points recycled from Cynthia’s recent campaign in the Sixth District.

For Cynthia Dunbar, this marks two Congressional campaigns in two districts in two weeks. Many leading Republicans say she is too hungry for power.

Although Dunbar doesn’t appear on the official list of declared candidates published by the committee, this doesn’t mean that she isn’t running. Under the committee’s rules, there is no deadline to file, and all official nominations will be moved and seconded at the meeting on Saturday.

Rather, in light of the backlash against Dunbar as the textbook political carpetbagger, this behind-the-scenes campaign strategy seems to have been a wise move to test Cynthia’s support levels and win over committee members before a voter backlash developed. Other candidates used this strategy too: notably, Senators Bill Stanley and Bryce Reeves.

Stanley entered the race yesterday as a strong candidate who many call a presumptive front runner. As the former Fifth District Chairman who represents hundreds of thousands of district voters in the Senate of Virginia, Stanley is a natural fit for the position.

Reeves tested his support before making a decision, too, ultimately declining to run after attracting only weak support from committee members, in large part due to his lack of residency within the district and concerns over the optics of such a move on short notice.

From Shores’ email, there is no question that Dunbar is a candidate pursuing this nomination.

The entrance of Dunbar to the race also raises issues over conflicts of interest in light of party ethics rules.

On Wednesday, RPV Chairman John Whitbeck sent an email to members of the Fifth District Committee regarding conflicts of interest. Following the ethical controversies in the Sixth District race, Whitbeck requested that all voting members uphold their ethical obligations under the State Party Plan by disclosing these conflicts to fellow members.

Whitbeck’s email requests full disclosure from all voting members who worked for a candidate or campaign to disclose that relationship before the vote. Whitbeck’s admonition extends to family as well, and requests full abstention (even by proxy) for members with “serious conflicts of interest.”

By one count, four members have a potential entanglement with campaigns. Three of those are entangled with Dunbar.

Whitbeck’s full email regarding conflicts of interest is as follows:

Members of the 5th District Committee,

First and foremost, I would like to again thank Congressman Tom Garrett for his service to our country and our Commonwealth. He has a lot of courage and we wish him all the best.

As you know, the responsibility of selecting the nominee for our Party in the 5th district falls on your shoulders. It goes without saying that this a tremendous responsibility and I know each of you will treat it with the utmost respect and seriousness.

The media will be on the lookout for any form of dissension on this process. I urge each and everyone of you to be very careful with statements to the press, as well as postings on social media. The fake news media will take every opportunity to take statements out-of-context to hurt our candidate. Do not give them the opportunity.

Given the unique nature of this election, there will also be heightened attention paid to the transparency of this election. I would urge every member of the committee to disclose any and all potential conflicts of interest to the committee as required by our Party Plan. If you, a close family member, or your spouse have been paid money by a candidate and/or employed by candidate or their campaign in the last six months, please make it known to your fellow committee members now.

Further, if any members have serious conflicts of interest I urge those members to abstain from voting. Not send proxy, but fully abstain. I firmly believe that anything less will create a dark cloud around the process and damage our candidate in the November. This election must be above reproach, and this is the only action that can guarantee that outcome. We also need to ensure if we can that there will be no basis to appeal the result of your vote to the RPV State Central Committee. I can think of nothing worse for unity than a protracted fight in the State Party over the nominee.

I know that the next few days will be very difficult and I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing. I also want to personally thank Chairman Melvin Adams for his hard work overseeing this process.

The eyes of the Nation are once again on Virginia and more specifically focused on the 5th District. I am thankful that we have great leaders like you on the job for such an important task.

Regards,

John Whitbeck, Chairman
Republican Party of Virginia
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