Contentious GOP Convention in VA-6 Ends with Move to Party Unity as Ben Cline Is Nominated by Acclamation

Virginia Del. Ben Cline, Rockbridge, front and House minority leader, Del. Todd Gilbert, top, R-Shenandoah, watch the vote tally board during votes on Medicaid expansion during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo/Steve Helber

A contentious GOP convention to select the party’s nominee in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District ended with a move towards unity when Del. Ben Cline was nominated by acclamation on Saturday.

Cline defeated Cynthia Dunbar by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin after the votes of the delegates attending the convention in Harrisonburg were counted. At that point Dunbar, with Cline’s assent, addressed the full convention and asked that the nomination be made by acclamation, a move that was readily accepted.

The Richmond Time-Dispatch described the scene:

State Del. Ben Cline won the Republican nomination Saturday to seek the seat of U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, surviving a challenge from hard-right candidate Cynthia Dunbar at a party convention held at James Madison University.

Cline, R-Rockbridge, will enter the general-election race as the presumptive favorite in the Republican-leaning 6th District, which covers much of western Virginia, stretching from the Shenandoah Valley to Lynchburg and Roanoke.

More than 2,200 voting delegates gathered in JMU’s Convocation Center for a day of party business capped by the selection of a nominee to succeed Goodlatte, who’s retiring after holding the seat for 25 years.

“After the result was announced, Dunbar took the stage and moved to nominate Cline by acclamation, ending the day on a note of unity,” the Times-Dispatch reported.

Though the public ending of the seven hour convention was harmonious, plenty of hard feelings remained on both sides from the bitter battle leading up to the convention, where charges and counter-charges were thrown with increasing intensity between the Cline camp and the Dunbar camp.

The two main rivals for the nomination, however, appeared ready to put the past behind and move forward in a united Republican effort to win the seat for Cline in the November general election against the Democratic challenger. That move takes the air out of the balloon for local Democrats, who had hoped the bitter battle up to the convention between Cline supporters and Dunbar supporters could turn a seat the Cook Political Report rates “Solid Republican” to a potential Democrat takeaway, one of the 23 net gains they need to take back a majority in the House of Representatives.

Cline and Dunbar were separated less by political ideology than they were by their potential approach to dealing with the House leadership.

Both have strong conservative records. Cline serves as the head of the Virginia General Assembly equivalent to the House Freedom Caucus and was endorsed by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity. Dunbar was endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Eagle Forum, and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Both candidates said that if they were elected they would join and lead the House Freedom Caucus.

Dunbar supported term limits, while Cline opposed them, and Dunbar said that, if elected, she would vote for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), head of the House Freedom Caucus, for Speaker of the House.

The Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District is the only party nomination for a federal office in the Commonwealth of Virginia this election by the convention method. All other nominations will be determined by a primary, which will be held on June 12.



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