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This 12th Senate race is becoming nasty but intriguing.  One of the stories I find perplexing is the McEachin one.  It started with this comment in response to my first protest of the anti-lawyer ad campaign of Dr. Dunnavant from Skipper Stanley:

State Senator Don McEachin supposedly fell off his chair eating breakfast when he saw Stolle- Dunnavant’s TV Ad stating she would vote against Medicaid Expansion in Virginia.

Supposedly she sought McEachin’s support of her candidacy. McEachin, a Democrat, is strongly supportive of Medicaid Expansion.

I asked Skipper if he or she could confirm that.  But no confirmation.  I thought it was so crazy that I did not even email Senator McEachin (who I have met a time or two but I hardly know at all) about it.

Then this from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The anti-lawyer, anti-Obamacare ad should have come as no surprise to lawyers, or Virginia Democrats, who watched General Assembly Republicans torpedo Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s bid to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

But at least one Democrat thought Dunnavant held more moderate views on Medicaid expansion.

Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, said that when he and Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, met with Dunnavant toward the end of the 2015 legislative session, “what was shared with me is that she was for Medicaid expansion.”

McEachin said he was “surprised” and “disheartened” to see Dunnavant come out so strongly against the issue in her ad.

I was shocked!  So I had to ask the question of the senator’s legislative office and they did confirm that Senator McEachin did say it.  Finally, this from John Fredericks of the John Fredericks show (hat trick to the Bull Elephant although I also got it from the Janis campaign) saying Dunnavant considered running as a Democrat(!):

The problem is, she first explored getting the Democratic nomination, before she filed for the seat to run as a Republican, in the same district.


Sources inside the Virginia Democratic senate caucus have confirmed that Dunnavant’s family engineered a secret meeting with Democratic leadership to investigate a state senate bid just before the 2015 General Assembly session ended in February.

There were three Democratic Senate leaders in attendance including Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senate caucus chair Don McEachin (D-Henrico).

One senator who attended the junta spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

McEachin went public.

“The rendezvous was for the purpose of exploring her options to run for state senate as a Democrat. Her brother called and asked us [Democratic senators] to meet with her because she was interested in running for state senate as a Democrat. Frankly, I would not have called her up for a meeting in a thousand years,” one state senator said.

“Dr. Dunnavant met with us to explore her interest in running for the state senate as a Democrat,” confirmed McEachin. “We chatted about the process, committee assignments, how things work, that sort of thing. She said she would follow up but did not call me, as best as I can recollect.”

Dr. Dunnavant a Democrat?  She is from a GOP family.  It is intriguing.

Sandy, what to make of it?

Got to realize that the McEachin statement is what we lawyers call hearsay.  Hearsay is not generally admissible due to its unreliability.  Now there is an exception to hearsay for what we call an admission by the opposing party in a lawsuit (or in a non-party context an declaration against a financial or penal [that is jail or prison, keep it clean readers!] interest) and the Dunnavant comment as reported by Senator McEachin was in the context of the election an admission or declaration against political interest.

But why did it come up?  Is McEachin trying to hurt or help Dunnavant?  If the Dems seek to find a candidate to run against the winner, there is less incentive to interfere in the primary except to elect a weaker candidate on the other side.  If he hurts Dunnavant to help a candidate that is easier to beat – cui bono (who benefits)?  Who is easier to beat?  Probably most Dems would say Vince Haley due to his working for Newt Gingrich (who I admire very much but is a polarizing figure admittedly) and that baggage might be useful for a dirty campaign.  However, if the Dems are not sure they will run a candidate, maybe they want the lesser of four evils to encourage their people to vote for.  But, that seems far fetched.  There is likewise no incentive for a leading Democrat to help a Republican win.

When you have several candidates, a negative attack on one hopeful by another is a bit like a bank shot in billiards – you hit one candidate you might knock that one out but also hurt yourself as well and benefit a third one.

The Bearing Drift take on the Times-Dispatch article is that the T-D forgot Vince Haley, who seems to be the tea party favorite:

While contenders such as Eddie Whitlock are (happily) holding on to the bitter end, the race does seem to be winding down towards a Janis-Dunnavant fistfight.

…which leaves Vince Haley as the alternative.

Let’s be honest here.  Statewide, Tea Party challengers are cruising to a pretty bone-crushing defeat (though most Tea Partiers will claim similar things were said in 2014 with polls showing Cantor with 70% of the electorate over “liberal college professor” Dave Brat).  This is universally true with one exception: Haley’s campaign in SEN-12.

What’s different?  The architect of the VA-07 upset, Zach Werrell, is managing the campaign.  That speaks volumes, as Werrell is probably pound for pound the best campaign manager in Virginia right now on either side.

And the conclusion is that Haley might well win.  If he does not get on TV, I would think his chances are not as good unless he blitzes the radio waves on key stations.  (I would have stuck to radio and not gone on TV – more bang for your buck – but that may be why I am not a campaign manager!)  Janis and Dunnavant are duking it out on TV (I have not seen an Janis commercial but have seen Dunnavant’s; I am not, however, closely monitoring local stations or Fox News.)

I would think McEachin is telling the truth.  That means that there is a genuine issue about Dunnavant and the GOP voter unsure might need to go to a place where he or she feels confident they are conservative:  That means Whitlock (unless you fear he can’t win), Janis or Haley:

Yet on the differences with distinction, Dunnavant loses on Medicaid expansion.  Between Janis and Haley, the litmus test is really against Janis’ record as a delegate.  Either it was excellent, good enough, or deplorable.  Tough to make the latter argument… and it was clear in the debate that while Janis clearly knew his stuff, Haley gets it from the perspective of Washington’s impact on Richmond with a Gingrich-style flavor for big, bold ideas.


Janis remains your frontrunner in SEN-12.  As Dunnavant unloads her warchest, don’t be surprised to see Haley rising in the last weeks of the campaign.

That’s what makes politics so exciting.  I have not changed my mind on this race although I am concerned about the “waffle” vote on the tax hike allegedly by Janis (although I did think if you were going to raise sales taxes it ought to be to a easy to compute level like 5% but I would have insisted on something like the sequester to balance out spending.) and I really like Eddie Whitlock a lot.  I am sticking with Janis unless I feel it is not right to stay with him.  I think I’ll live blog this race and several others, too.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Skipper Stanley says:

    Mr. Sanders-

    You exposed the hypocrisy of Stolle Dunnavant- who has lied to the public when she stated, ” I am not a politician, I am a Doctor.”

    She’s not a politician YET, but her family are very important Virginia Politicians- a real machine – all of them- THEY RUN VA BEACH. Her family secretly orchestrated a meeting with the Democratic Leadership to explore her Run for State Senate? They are Republicans! Secretly meeting with the Democratic Leadership? on her behalf?

    WHAT that should tell you is that she told them she would support Medicaid expansion in return for their support. Get it? That’s what the meeting was about. Any Democrat running for office in Virginia this year will tell you they are running on Medicaid Expansion. Stolle is telling her Republican voters she opposes it to get elected but she can’t be trusted on that issue when her largest donors are the Market Place lobbyists.

    The voters are being played here. Stolle and Senator Stosch ran the GA for years- racking up debt and tax increases. She would be a disaster in the General Assembly- another Stosch- playing to the lobbyists and donor class- not the people she was elected to represent. Stosch hasn’t returned a phone call or email in years. IF you don’t donate- he didn’t care what you thought.



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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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