Analysts: Goodlatte Safe From Far-Right Challenge

Posted: June 12, 2014

HARRISONBURG — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat to a virtually unknown tea party challenger in a GOP primary Tuesday shouldn’t worry Roanoke Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, political analysts say.

“[Cantor] never focused on constituent services,” said Bob Roberts, a political science professor at James Madison University. “Goodlatte is very different. He always spends a tremendous amount of time on constituent services. Goodlatte is a completely different personality. Cantor is much more of an elitist.”

Goodlatte is seeking a 12th two-year term representing Virginia’s 6th District in Congress in November.

Unlike Cantor, he didn’t face a challenger for the GOP nomination on Tuesday, when the majority leader shockingly fell to economics professor Dave Brat in the incumbent’s bid to again represent the 7th District.

Even if Goodlatte had competition, Roberts said, he would be safe.

In the conservative 6th, Goodlatte continues to move “very far to the right” and is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has been “hostile” toward Democratic President Barack Obama, Roberts said.

“He can stay there as long as he wants,” he said of Goodlatte representing the district.

When Goodlatte faced his only GOP challenger, Karen Kwiatkowski, two years ago, he soundly defeated her with 66 percent of the vote.

“So at least by that recent measure,” said Geoff Skelley, an analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics,  “he’s fought off a challenge from his right with success. But I think we can expect Goodlatte to continue tacking right on most issues to make sure he is positioned to counter future threats.”

The congressman does have a general election to win in November before having to worry about a primary race in 2016.

Democrats did not field a candidate, but Staunton resident Will Hammer and Elaine Hildebrandt of Halifax County have turned in documents to the Virginia State Board of Elections to run. The deadline to file was 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Hammer and Hildebrandt needed 1,000 signatures of registered voters in the district to qualify.

Hammer, 27, works at Rosetta Stone in Harrisonburg and was nominated to run by the district Libertarians.

His platform includes abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, having the U.S. be “non-interventionalists in foreign affairs” and approving agriculture bills that let the smaller farmer “flourish,” he said during a visit to JMU in April.

Hammer also noted that Goodlatte ran on term limits more than 20 years ago.

“He’s still in office,” he said.

Goodlatte has addressed that criticism by saying he did not stick to his pledge because other members of Congress are not limited in how long they can serve.

Meanwhile, Hildebrandt is a retired educator tied to the Independent Green Party.

She has no contact information on her campaign website, which directs visitors to her husband’s campaign page to learn about her political views.

Her husband, Ken, is running for Congress in the 5th District.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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