6th District GOP candidates to participate in forum

FRONT ROYAL – The eight Republican candidates vying for U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s soon-to-be vacated Virginia 6th Congressional District seat will make their cases during a Saturday forum.

The candidate’s forum will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Warren County Government Center, 220 N. Commerce Ave. All of the candidates are scheduled to appear. They are Kathryn Lewis, Mike Desjadon, Chaz Haywood, Cynthia Dunbar, Ben Cline, Douglas Wright, Ed Justo and Elliot Pope.

“We’re excited to have them all come to Warren County,” said Stephen Kurtz, Warren County Republican Committee vice president and 6th District Republican Committee vice chairman. “That’s a tough feat in itself considering how long the 6th District is.”

The large candidate pool is unusual in Republican races for the 6th District congressional seat. Kurtz said he thinks this can be chalked up to Goodlatte’s retirement after 26 years.

Goodlatte was contested twice in Republican primaries, in 2016 by Harry Griego and in 2012 by Karen Kwiatkowski.

“It’s because Bob Goodlatte’s retiring…so there’s a lot of people vying for that seat,” Kurtz said. “A lot of people see he’s gone and say ‘hey, I’m going to run for it.'”

Although Kurtz was not surprised by interest in the seat, he was surprised that the eight candidates were able to pay the “hefty” $5,000 filing fee to the 6th District Republican Committee.

The forum will be moderated by Warren County Supervisor Tom Sayre. Since there are so many candidates, they will have one minute to answer questions. Audience members can arrive early and submit questions that may be read. They each will also have two minute opening and closing statements.

A recent forum at the Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave drew about 200 spectators, and Kurtz expects a similar turnout Saturday. He pointed to Goodlatte not running as a possible reason for increased public interest.

“We’re seeing a lot of that. A lot of people are becoming interested in the congressional race now that they know the seat is open,” Kurtz said.

Two more forums are scheduled before the May 19 convention at James Madison University’s Convocation Center in Harrisonburg. The next will be 3 p.m. Feb. 17 at Liberty University’s Science Hall Auditorium in Lynchburg, and the last Feb. 24 at a to-be-determined location in Botetourt County.

Kurtz encouraged people to attend the May convention because whoever wins the Republican nomination stands a strong chance of winning the November election.

“It’s a Republican district, I don’t see the Democrats gaining ground anytime soon,” Kurtz said.