HARRISONBURG — Two Republicans plan to seek their party’s nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and they may not be the last to jump into the race.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, and Cynthia Dunbar, Virginia’s National Committeewoman to the Republican National Convention, announced their campaigns Thursday, hours after the 13-term Roanoke Republican said he won’t seek re-election in 2018.
Goodlatte, 65, represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, which stretches from part of Roanoke County in the south to Shenandoah and Warren counties in the north, including Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Cline has represented the 24th District in the House of Delegates since 2003. The district includes Bath and Rockbridge counties, parts of Amherst and Augusta counties and Buena Vista and Lexington.
“Now more than ever we need principled, conservative fighters in Washington who are ready and willing to shake up the status quo,” Cline said in a statement. “I’m ready to answer the call, because families back here deserve nothing less.”
Cline, once a Goodlatte aide, is a Lexington attorney who formerly worked under Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst.
Cline won an eighth two-year term on Tuesday with 71 percent of the vote over an independent opponent.
Dunbar, of Bedford County, is a Lynchburg attorney. Her website describes her as “an American patriot of Native-American descent.” Her only elected position, according to her website, was to the Texas State Board of Education. She represented an area near Austin, Texas, for a four-year term from 2007 to 2011.
“I have witnessed firsthand the disarray and dysfunction inside Congress, which is crippling our Republic,” Dunbar said in a statement. “Our national debt, our out of control spending, our tax system, our immigration policy are just a few reasons why Americans elected Republicans.”
Cline thanked Goodlatte for his service, but said he plans to run because, “For far too long, Washington insiders have ignored families outside their insular ‘Beltway.’” He said the seat, though in a solidly Republican district, can’t be taken for granted.
“The Democrats are emboldened by recent victories and we can’t allow them to seize this seat,” he said.
Although four incumbent Republican delegates fended off Democratic challengers in the central Valley on Tuesday, Democrats swept statewide races and may have flipped the House of Delegates, which the GOP has controlled for nearly two decades.
Since first being elected in 1992, Goodlatte has never won less than 60 percent of the vote against challengers.
“The 6th District is solidly conservative and its constituents are both motivated and mobilized for change,” Dunbar said. “We are demanding real results and will not accept excuses.”
Cline and Dunbar didn’t return calls for comment on Thursday.
Dan Cullers, chairman of the Rockingham County Republican Committee, said more candidates could enter the race.
“We have an outstanding pool of good conservatives up and down the Valley,” he wrote in a text message.
Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, is considering a run for the nomination.
Landes, who won a 12th term in the House of Delegates on Tuesday, plans to discuss a run with his family, but his priority is the upcoming legislative session.
“We’ve got a General Assembly session to work through,” he said. “Hopefully, Ben will focus on that as well; that’s what I’m going to do.”
Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, won’t run for the seat. He lost a bid to unseat Goodlatte in 2008.
State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, and Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, who may be the House majority leader next year, don’t plan to seek the Republican nomination.
Democrats Peter Volosin of Roanoke and Sergio Coppola of Hinton are seeking their party’s nomination.
Coppola said the announcements haven’t changed his campaign.
“With health care being my primary focus, my campaign strategy remains the same no matter who I’m against,” he said.
Volosin welcomed Dunbar and Cline to the race.
“[I] look forward to debating the eventual Republican Party nominee on the issues in the run-up to November next year,” Volosin said in an emailed statement. “I represent a Fresh Start for the Blue Ridge and to a new politics that reaches across the aisle to find practical solutions that are driven, not by ideology or special interests but by the needs of our constituents.”
Although he lives outside the district, Andy Parker told CNN he may seek the Democratic nomination. Parker’s daughter, Alison, a James Madison University alumna and reporter for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, was shot and killed during a live broadcast in 2015.
Since the shooting, Parker has been lobbying for increased gun control measures. CNN reported Parker would move to the district to seek the nomination.
Neither party has decided how to choose a nominee.
Independent Michael Frend of Waynesboro is also in the running and said Cline and Dunbar would be “worthy opponents.” No third-party candidates have announced plans to seek the seat.