Cynthia Dunbar isn’t yet a household name in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District.
You probably didn’t know she’s Virginia’s Republican national committeewoman.
Or that she was co-chairwoman of Ted Cruz’s 2016 Virginia presidential primary effort (and later, a wildly enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump).
But the Forest resident and former Liberty University law professor might become a household name soon. She expects to capture the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte in Congress. That would give Democrats the best chance they’ve had in ages to flip the district blue.
Last week on conservative news-talk radio’s “John Fredericks Show,” Dunbar, 53, declared herself the frontrunner among six Republicans angling to succeed Goodlatte. She said, “I am the voice of the people of the 6th District,” “the people love me because I believe what they believe,” and “the people of the district have been under oppression for decades now.”
Thanks to a recent convention rules change engineered by some of Dunbar’s allies on the GOP’s 6th District Committee, she indeed could get the party’s nod. If the change sticks, it’ll limit the nomination contest to a single vote at the committee’s May convention in Harrisonburg.
Assuming all the candidates remain in the running, that means Dunbar could secure the nomination with 16.7 percent of the convention’s support.
There are many good reasons Dunbar might not obtain support from a larger percentage of the convention’s Republicans. Chief among them: She’s more or less a female version of Al Bedrosian, the ex-Roanoke County supervisor who was an eye-rolling embarrassment to his colleagues on that GOP-dominated panel.
Bedrosian, you might recall, believes constitutional guarantees of religious freedom apply only to Christians and that other faiths should be suppressed in public life. Rather than spend on such things as libraries, he preferred investing taxpayer money on legal defenses for Christian-only invocations at board meetings.
He won the 2013 Hollins District Republican primary on a coin flip and likely would have lost the general election if it hadn’t been a three-way race. (The majority split between a Democrat and an independent.) His extremism cost him the Republican nomination in his bid for re-election last year.
Most of Dunbar’s questionable actions occurred on a far larger scale. From 2007 to 2011, she was an elected member of the State Board of Education in Texas. There, she made headlines — not the favorable kind — for extremist views that turned the board into an international laughingstock.
After her election, Dunbar acknowledged her own offspring were home-schooled or attended private academies. She published a 2008 book, “One Nation Under God,” that called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” that was both unconstitutional and tyrannical. She also wrote that putting children in public schools was akin to “throwing them into the enemy’s flames.”
Dunbar was an early “birther,” decrying way back in 2008 that Barack Obama hadn’t proved he was a “natural-born” citizen. She also predicted — wrongly — that within six months of his inauguration, Obama would declare martial law and expand his power after terrorists who sympathized with him attacked the United States.
On the board of education, Dunbar fought to exclude Thomas Jefferson — who believed in the separation of church and state — from Texas schools’ social studies curriculum. In the area of science, she sought to downplay evolution and to include “intelligent design” — a watered-down version of creationism — in school textbooks.
Those actions were important on a larger scale because Texas’ school system is so huge that many publishers tailor their books to pass muster in the Lone Star State before they begin selling them in smaller states.
After her board term ended, Dunbar moved to Virginia. Here, she formed a company that published a high school textbook, “Mexican American Heritage.” In 2016, when she tried to sell it to her former colleagues on the often-divided Texas State Board of Education, they unanimously rejected it. Why? They found it riddled with errors of fact, interpretation and omission. Among the offenses critics decried was that the book depicted Mexican workers as lazy.
At the time, Dunbar said she hadn’t sought input from Mexican-American history scholars because they might be biased. Instead, she hired a couple of nonscholar religious conservatives to write the book. One was a woman who touts her qualifications on LinkedIn by noting she was a top reviewer for Amazon.com.
We’re just scratching the surface here, folks. If Dunbar wins the nomination, she’ll bring more baggage — mountains of it — to the 6th Congressional District race. Three Roanoke-area Republicans I spoke to on background last week each expressed a measure of horror at that prospect.
That’s why Democrats ought to climb on the Dunbar bandwagon. They should send her money, put Dunbar signs in their yards, show up at local GOP conventions — and the district convention — and support her. (Republicans can’t keep them out, because nobody registers by political party in Virginia.)
The district leans hard to the GOP. Goodlatte’s worst general election showing, in his very first bid for a then-open seat, was 60 percent in 1992. Almost any Republican with a pulse can win that race. Dunbar might be the one who can’t.
All of the above is why I wholeheartedly endorse Dunbar for the 6th District Republican nomination. She’s the biggest fruitcake who’s ever run for Congress in the 6th District. She’s the bomb that could blow up 26 years of Republican dominance.
Considering the blue wave that’s washing over the commonwealth right now, Dunbar offers Democrats their best chance in nearly 30 years. They should go for it. Two relative nobodies have announced they’re seeking the Democratic nomination. One heavy is mulling a run.
Are you paying attention, John Fishwick?