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Halifax Democrats hold caucus tonight / April 16, 2018

Halifax County Democrats will caucus tonight to elect delegates to the May 5th Fifth District convention in Farmville, where party members will choose among four candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Tom Garrett in the November general election.

Halifax is among four local Democratic committees that will hold caucuses tonight. The local caucus is open to all registered voters, but participants are required to take a pledge to support the Democratic nominee in the fall midterm election against Garrett, a Buckingham Republican who is seeking a second term.

Running for the Democratic nomination are Leslie Cockburn of Rappahannock County and Ben Cullop, Roger Dean Huffstetler and Andrew Sneathern, all from Charlottesville.

Registration for the caucus begins at 5:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Mary Bethune Complex and the doors will be locked at 6:30 p.m. prior to the start of voting.

Democrats opted for a caucus system rather than a voter primary to pick their candidate in part to give rural areas outside of Charlottesville and Albermarle — the most Democratic parts of the district — a larger voice in the final selection.

Halifax joins Albemarle, Appomattox and Henry counties in the second round of caucuses tonight.

A dozen other local committees will hold their caucuses later this week.

In the opening round of caucuses, Cockburn — an investigative journalist with stints as a 60 Minutes and PBS Frontline producer on her resume — swept up a strong majority of delegates. Her campaign claimed 40 delegates after seven counties held their caucuses. According to the Cockburn campaign, Sneathern trailed with 13 delegates, Huffstetler took 10 delegates and Cullop garnered none. That count has not been challenged by the other campaigns.

Sneathern is an attorney in private practice and a former prosecutor in both his home state of Missouri and in Virginia since moving to Charlottesville in 2004. Huffstetler, a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a former congressional aide and tech entrepreneur. Cullop, who was born in the Fifth District and has lived in Charlottesville most of his life, has worked as an admissions dean at the University of Virginia.

On Saturday, seven counties were the first to hold their caucuses: Charlotte, Fluvanna, Franklin, Lunenburg, Madison, Pittsylvania and Rappahannock. In addition to winning the lion’s share of the early delegate haul, Cockburn won six of the seven localities. Sneathern carried Charlotte County, taking three delegates to two for Cockburn.

More than half of Cockburn’s 40-delegate total on Saturday came from two counties, Franklin, where she took 13 delegates, and Pittsylvania, where she took 11. Sneathern picked up seven delegates in Pittsylvania County but none in Franklin, while Huffstetler took four delegates in Franklin but none in Pittsylvania.

The May 5 convention in Farmville will bring together 250 delegates from around the Fifth District, with the winner needing to claim a majority to take the party’s nomination.

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