GOP candidates field questions at forum

FRONT ROYAL – The eight people seeking the Republican Party nod to run for the Sixth Virginia Congressional District shared similar ideals and subtle differences at a candidates’ forum in town Saturday.

Dozens of people from the region attended the event held at the Warren County Government Center as the hopefuls – most of whom live in the Harrisonburg area and further south in the district – responded to questions prepared and vetted in advance of the forum. Warren County Supervisor Thomas Sayre moderated the event. Each participant gave opening and closing statements and had 45 seconds to respond to the questions.

The eight candidates who participated in the forum are seeking the seat held by longtime U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who announced last year he would not seek re-election in November. The district holds its nominating event June 12.

Candidates are Virginia state Del. Benjamin Cline, Cynthia Dunbar, Mike Desjadon, Chaz Haywood, Ed Justo, Kathryn Lewis, Elliot Pope and Douglas Wright.

While all participants want to represent the Republican Party in the November election, some candidates sought to differentiate themselves from the others. Some extolled their unwavering support for President Donald Trump. Pope said while he supports the party he doesn’t plan to be a rubber-stamp politician.

The candidates’ first question was if being a political outsider would serve to benefit a member of Congress.

Desjadon, who works in the private sector and has no political experience, said he is an outsider who would bring his experience, especially in the health care field, to Congress.

Haywood, clerk of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Circuit Court, said a congressman needs to listen to people to make government more efficient and effective.

Dunbar said she has been an outsider for decades, noting that such a designation means a person is not part of the swamp or of the elected elite and she applied the label to President Donald Trump.

Justo questioned the use of the term political outsider, noting that the label would not apply to anyone running for political office but added that seeking an office would allow him to speak for the people.

Lewis said political outsiders have no ties to special interests and thus can be transparent for the people.

Wright said he’s in favor of term limits for members of Congress to allow for new blood and ideas brought in by the political outsiders.

Cline said he agreed that a political outsider brings views from the outside to the government to try to make a change, which he would do to fix problems in Washington, D.C.

Pope said he feels it’s important that the people pick a political outsider because that person will ultimately go to Washington and hire insiders.

The second question asked of the candidates was what makes them the best person to go to Washington and to achieve conservative results.

Haywood said egos in Washington are getting stuck.

Dunbar said to achieve results you need to elect statesman and not career politicians who are more concerned about their re-election.

Justo said you have to define conservatism and then convince people to work together.

Lewis said Washington will continue to be at a standstill if people do not work together.

Wright said the Republican Party is a party of ideas that moves people forward but some officials in Congress are stopping progress.

Cline said he would compromise to achieve certain results in Washington.

Pope said Washington needs outsiders from the business sector and said he would build a team of such people to push change for conservatives.