Saturday: All GOP Eyes Are On Virginia’s 5th Congressional District – LIVE UPDATES

Today all GOP roads lead to Nelson County in Virginia’s largest congressional district, the “Fightin’ Fifth,” as someone dubbed the monstrosity that stretches from the North Carolina border north through central Virginia to the western outskirts of D.C.

It’s a 10:00 a.m. meeting at Nelson County High School. To get there, you take Rt. 29 to Lovingston, located south of Charlottesville, and the school is just south of there in a bucolic surrounding up on a hill. A word of warning to those from outside the area: Drive the posted speed limit on Rt. 29. Nelson County doesn’t take well to people speeding on its north-south thoroughfare.

This all comes after incumbent Congressman Tom Garrett’s unexpected announcement five days ago that he would not seek reelection in November, leaving a confusing scenario of what-to-do-next which settled into the reality that the time for primaries and conventions had passed which meant the next GOP congressional nominee would be voted on by the 5th District Committee.

Republicans around the Commonwealth who cannot attend what may turn into a marathon event will be watching to see how this unusual method of nominating a congressman will turn out, and who will maneuver themselves to the top. (See list of candidates and latest updates here.)

In the populist atmosphere of the 5th District, it is difficult to know if the committee will pick an elected official, or go with someone who has no governing experience.

Republicans will especially be watching to see if rumors that Cynthia Dunbar, who stirred controversy when she ran for and lost the congressional nomination in the 6th District just two weeks ago, and is said to be running in the 5th, will come true. Her name was not on the final list released by the chairman but the rules drawn up by the 5th District Committee did not include a deadline, just a suggested Thursday evening notification.

That leaves it wide open for maneuvering by Diana and Chris Shores, who worked for Dunbar during her campaign to be the congressional nominee in the 6th District, to nominate her from the floor. If Dunbar does allow her name to be entered as a contender, she may permanently damage her reputation within serious GOP circles.

Bearing Drift’s Rollin Reisinger wrote on Friday:

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.”

That group of 30-something unit chairs and officers would need to be solicited, crooned, cajoled, feted, and all favors called in to reach the magic number of 19, the minimum needed to secure the nomination.

This is not a congressional race in the usual sense of asking voters for their support. All attention is being directed simply at the 5th district committee to secure votes and, when a winner is selected, the nominee will then hit the ground running for the general election in November.

After Garrett’s announcement, candidates lined up to seek the nomination. The first out of the box that night was Nelson County distillery owner Denver Riggleman who had made a brief foray into politics for the first time with the 2017 gubernatorial race. In the days that followed the list grew: Joe Whited who ran in 2016, Martha Boneta, Michael Del Rosso, Del. Michael Webert, Dale Woodson, Paul Gwaz, Harold Gielow, and Senator Bill Stanley.

And of course Cynthia Dunbar if she pulls a sneaky on-the-floor attack. Maybe there are others thinking the same.

Out of that list, exactly two have governing experience: Delegate Webert and Senator Stanley.

Personally, and I have no dog in this hunt so this is strictly observing from the neighboring and equally dysfunctional 6th District, it was a pretty ho-hum field until Stanley threw his hat into the ring Thursday night. That’s when this race really began heating up because Bill Stanley has an ace in the hole: Richard Crouse. So today could line up to be the battle of Crouse versus the Shores. If I were betting, my money would be on Crouse.

UPDATE x1: Meeting was called to order shortly after 10:00. About 50 in the audience and 30 Fifth District committee members in attendance.

Senator Bill Stanley. Photo by Jean Gannon.

UPDATE x2: Thanks to Jean Gannon, Powhatan GOP chair, for updates and photos from today’s meeting. She’s stringing for Bearing Drift today.  🙂

UPDATE x3: Bill Stanley has reportedly withdrawn his name.

UPDATE x4: Nominations are made and seconded for: Dunbar, Boneta, Webert, Whited, Del Rosso, Riggleman.

UPDATE x5: Lots of conflict of interest with committee members/candidates but not sure anything will come of it other than disclosure.

UPDATE x6: Order of speakers determined by drawing from bucket. Each candidate has five minutes to speak. Nominees are now on the stage.

UPDATE x7: So rumors have been confirmed that Cynthia Dunbar is in.

UPDATE x8: Speeches are underway.

UPDATE x9: Tweet from Rollin Reisinger — “Fifth District announces previous employment with campaigns does not constitute a conflict of interest if before Tom’s retirement announcement. Will Pace (General Assembly), Chris Shores (Dunbar), Melvin Adams (Dunbar), Daniel Bradshaw (Del Rosso) make voluntary disclosures.”

John Mosco turns his back on Cynthia Dunbar as she speaks. Photo by Jean Gannon.

UPDATE x10: Dunbar with no shame as to the new controversy of her moving into 5th District shortly after losing the 6th, said her campaign is in place and ready to go. Riggleman reemphasized that his issues with the government drove him to run.

UPDATE x11: Tweet from Rollin Reisinger — “Michael Del Rosso warns that the ‘fourth branch’ of government is plotting a ‘coup’ against President Trump, imminent threats to America. Race will be nationalized on Trump, Charlottesville by Democrats, he says.”

UPDATE x12: Michael Webert up — farmer and delegate. Accomplishments include 2nd amendment legislation.

UPDATE x13: 11:40am — Speeches conclude. Voting will now begin with the 5th District committee members.

UPDATE x14: According to @RollinReisinger — “Electors proceed to front of auditorium. Voting by secret ballot. On first ballot, top four will advance. Majority to win, not plurality.”

UPDATE x15: While we’re in a lull with voting, just wanted to again thank Jean Gannon and Rollin Reisinger for updates during the morning, and Jean for pics.

Thoughts on Cynthia Dunbar jumping into the 5th District race?

UPDATE x16: Noon — voting complete; now counting.

UPDATE x17: Are you ready for this? Dunbar — 15. Whited — 6. Riggleman — 6. Del Rosso — 5. Those are the top four; everyone else is out.

If Del Rosso drops out like he said after the first round and throws his support behind Dunbar, as we were told, Dunbar would have it. And the Democrats will get the 5th District instead of the 6th. Let’s see what happens next. Somewhere Democrats are laughing their heads off and cheering on Dunbar.

If Dunbar wins, the GOP is going to have to dump a load of money into the district.

UPDATE x18: Each of the four candidates has a surrogate speaking on their behalf. Dick Black endorsed Dunbar.

During the delay of endorsements (sounds like there were eight speakers lined up), Dunbar people are working to pull in more votes.

UPDATE x19: 12:50 — Round 2 of voting is underway.

UPDATE x20: Martha Boneta has reportedly thrown her 3 votes behind Dunbar. In-ter-esting.

UPDATE x21: From someone in the room … a young man stood up and objected to a speaker’s statements for Cynthia Dunbar and was escorted out. He actually was on his own way out but loudly objected as a surrogate endorsed her.

UPDATE x22: Round 2 — Dunbar 14, Riggleman 13, Del Rosso 9.

UPDATE x23: Discussion is going on about amending rules to move forward without speeches. Tweet read that rules being bent to allow a certain candidate. Not sure what brought this up at this time.

The feeling is it has come down between Dunbar and Riggleman.

Those on the floor are saying deals are definitely being made at this point. Word is Whited has given his votes to Riggleman. It’s getting close.

UPDATE x24: No change in rules; speeches continue.

UPDATE x25: George Urban (Albemarle GOP chair) just spoke on behalf of Riggleman. Said he just met Dunbar for the first time today.

UPDATE x26: Speeches continue … could the tide be turning against Dunbar? This appears to be headed to a very close vote. Is the Fifth going to split into the Shores camp versus the Riggleman camp?

1:30 — Speeches continue.

UPDATE x27: From @RollinReisinger — “Double standard: #VA05 chair allows pro-Dunbar speaker to attack one candidate and entire ‘establishment’ wing of the party, minutes after another chair was sked to only speak ‘for’ a candidate.”

UPDATE x28: College Republicans have backed Denver Riggleman who lines up with many of their beliefs: pro-gay rights, Libertarian, and he owns Silverback Distillery in Nelson County. LOL.

UPDATE x29: Round 3 of voting is about to begin.

UPDATE x30: Ron Hedlund is saying del Rosso will throw his support behind Dunbar, not Riggleman. That would throw it to Dunbar if it’s true. This is rather startling so let’s see what happens in this round of voting.

Not sure how much I believe this but we will see. Hedlund is blaming it on staffers from two years ago.

UPDATE x31: No majority: Dunbar 16, Riggleman 15, del Rosso 6. Where will del Rosso send his votes in Round 4? That should be the final ballot.

UPDATE x32: There weren’t supposed to be speeches but now they have said there will be and as “asking” people to hold them to one minute.  Wait — motion to change rules to not have speeches in this round. Voting…..

UPDATE x33: Not a two-thirds vote so cannot change the rules. Speeches again. People feel that speeches help Riggleman make deals and are detrimental to Dunbar.

Boots on the ground say del Rosso is sitting near Dunbar and the conversation doesn’t look like it’s going well … but does anyone really know?

From @RollinReisinger: “The leading #VA05 candidate was not even declared as of this morning. How’s that for transparency? Voters back home had no idea Dunbar was running. Only @BearingDrift reported. How are the Republican grassroots supposed to weigh in and advise their reps on a stealth candidate?”

UPDATE x34: A shoving match has resulted in someone being tossed by law enforcement.

UPDATE x35: The del Rosso votes may get split between Dunbar and Riggleman, as per Saxman with Fredericks.

UPDATE x36: It’s 2:35 and speeches are winding up so they can vote Round 4.

UPDATE x37: Round 4 voting underway. Waiting for results.

UPDATE x38: Denver Riggleman wins! It’s 3:00 p.m.

So the Shores camp went up against the Riggleman camp and lost. That’s two losses for the Shores in two weeks with the same candidate.

Congratulations, Denver Riggleman! After a five-hour meeting, four rounds of voting, endless speechifying, and countless deals that were made on the floor, the Fifth District may be on the brink of change. Time will tell.

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