The Horse Race Begins to Replace Delegate Dickie Bell – Updated
With the recent news of Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) choosing not to run for re-election in 2019, all eyes turn again to the Augusta County area to see who may be interested in earning the title of Delegate.
The district is comprised of all of Highland County, Staunton City, and Waynesboro City, and part of Augusta and Nelson counties. Augusta County is where the largest voting locality is in the district and is solidly Republican. The 2017 race for Delegate resulted in Republican incumbent Dickie Bell receiving 54.5 percent, Democrat Michelle Edwards receiving 42.6 percent, and Libertarian Will Hammer receiving 2.8 percent of the vote.
Delegate Bell will continue to serve out his term; however, the jockeying for his position has already begun in the horse race for the Republican nomination.
The Legislative District Committee will soon meet to pick the method of nomination. It is speculated that this committee that is comprised of several of the Scott Sayre/Cynthia Dunbar leadership team members will push for a convention similar to that which they held for the 6th District Congressional nomination this past May that was surrounded in controversy. The deciding vote will come down to what the LDC Chair in Nelson County chooses.
1) Anne Fitzgerald: Anne is a member of the State Central Committee and is a longtime conservative activist. Her husband Matt is the current GOP Chairman of Staunton City and he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016 where he and Anne supported the rules change opposed by Donald Trump. Anne and Matt have two young boys who they homeschool and live in Staunton. The Fitzgeralds know politics well and are very involved with Ken Adams (GOP Chairman of Waynesboro) through their Pro-Life group Day of Tears. It is no secret that Anne has coveted this seat for a while; the question is how much will her Sayre/Dunbar connections hurt her with the local Republican activists in Augusta County.
2) Pam Carter: Pam Carter was elected in a stunning upset for the Pastures District seat on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors in 2017. She is a Valley native who has a background in the healthcare industry. Carter has been extremely involved in the Augusta GOP, and the cleaning up and revitalization of the committee. Her daughter Rebecca was recently elected Unit Chair with overwhelming support. If Carter runs she will have a large grassroots volunteer network and a top-notch resume to run on.
3) John Avoli: The former mayor of Staunton is a hometown hero. Avoli is tied deeply into the Augusta/Staunton business community. His work at the Frontier Culture Museum has earned him even more accolades for pushing for rural investment. Avoli would be a strong fundraiser and he would have a strong network of longtime area residents.
4) Andrea Oaks: As the lone conservative on the Staunton City Council, Oaks is well versed in the responsibilities of local government and the role it plays with the state. She is very professional in her political dealings and thoughtful in her actions. She has multiple Master’s Degrees and a degree in Government from Sweet Briar.
5) Amy Darby: Darby, the niece of Delegate Dickie Bell, is a former Staunton City School Board member. She is a hometown girl who graduated from R. E. Lee High School in Staunton and recently ran unsuccessfully for the Staunton City Council. She has a lot of connections throughout the area and, if backed by her Uncle Delegate Bell, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
6) Mike Desjadon: Mike popped onto the political scene in the Valley when he ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Nomination to succeed retiring Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Although he did not gain many votes, he was very well liked and came out a winner in his run Congress. Many politicos have come to admire him and his approach to solving the nation’s problems. It is still unclear as to what type of Republican Dejadon would be if elected. He is new to the Augusta area and travels a lot for his career in the healthcare industry. He has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Senator Emmett Hanger for the Republican Nomination, but nothing has been announced. He has a website and was recently at the Republican Advance in Norfolk.
7) Dan Moxley: Recently resigned from the Augusta County GOP, Moxley has some time on his hands politically. He came up short in his 2015 Primary Race against Senator Emmett Hanger and rumor is that he is looking to run for office again. This may be his opening. The Pennsylvania native has served as GOP Chairman of Bath County and Augusta County. He has an instant campaign infrastructure but has made a lot of enemies along the way. The State Central Committee recently adopted a new Party Plan Amendment dealing with Delegate list security because of his actions during the 2018 Sixth District Convention fiasco. Moxley will work to appeal to the evangelical crowd.
8) Ken Adams: The chairman of Waynesboro and ringleader of the now struggling Sayre coalition, Adams has considered public office before in Waynesboro. The New England transplant with the thickest of accents recently was mentioned as a city council candidate in Waynesboro. Adams is best known for his political tactics such as bringing forth the lawsuit over the Virginia Code dealing with the nomination process, setting the prefile deadline extremely early for the Sixth District Convention, and his proposal to pay the Bopp law firm the $30,000 for legal fees defending the Sayre/Dunbar team. If Adams runs he will be a hard worker and careful in his moves.
Conclusion: The pathway to victory for many of these folks will come down to the method of nomination chosen. Some will benefit in a primary, others will benefit in a convention or mass meeting.
There are several well qualified, professional women with college degrees mentioned in the list. This is significant as the Republican Party has put an emphasis on improving relations with white, college educated, suburban women. Fitzgerald will be the favorite starting out of the gate if she can nudge out Moxley and Adams from the Sayre/Dunbar coalition, Avoli/Darby/Oaks are in the same network so that will be interesting to see who blinks first, Desjadon can fundraise, and Pam Carter’s Augusta County Republican grassroots team will be strong.
No names have come out of Nelson or Highland as of now but who knows? Maybe Denver Riggleman has a cousin waiting in the wings?
Update: The 20th House Legislative District Committee met on December 29 and decided that a primary will be the method of nomination.