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Spotsy Democrats grill congressional hopeful

A Richmond Democrat who hopes to challenge Rep. Eric Cantor, R–7th, got a chilly reception from the Spotsylvania County Democratic Committee on Monday evening.

Mike Dickinson, 34, described himself as a liberal Democrat during a speech at the committee’s monthly meeting. “I believe Democrats don’t judge,” he told 17 people at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Salem Church branch. “I believe that we’re the open tent; we’re the open party.”

But Spotsylvania Democratic Committee member Richard Toye told Dickinson that he thought there was “no way” that the 7th District Democratic Committee would nominate him at its convention. So far, no other Democrats have announced plans to seek the party’s nomination.

Toye expressed concern about Dickinson’s lack of experience and business dealings with strip clubs, among other issues. Dickinson said he has done consulting work for adult-oriented businesses.

If no other Democratic candidates come forward, “I’d have to support that no-candidate option” at the convention, Toye told Dickinson.

Another item of contention was Dickinson’s recent letter to the editor of The Free Lance–Star claiming that a group of women in the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee opposed his candidacy because of his “background in business with adult clubs.” He wrote that “judging people by outdated stereotypes is exactly what Democrats are supposed to be against.”

Opal Stroup, a Spotsylvania Democratic Committee member, told Dickinson that she took exception to his letter. “You’re asking us to donate money to you, you’re asking us to work our butts off for you but then you write a letter to the editor that attacks women in Chesterfield,” Stroup said “Do you think that’s a real wise strategy?”

Stroup, who said she thinks strip clubs are “demeaning to women,” also asked Dickinson about letters to the editor he wrote to the Richmond Times–Dispatch.

Dickinson referred to himself as an adult-entertainment club owner in a letter dated January 2013. In a 2012 letter, Dickinson wrote that he was the CEO of Mid-Atlantic Showclubs.

“But tonight you said you just consulted,” Stroup said. “So which is it? You either misrepresented yourself to the public or you’re misrepresenting now.”

Dickinson responded: “I was a lobbyist working for a company, and I wrote what I had to write on paper to get the job done.” He said he never owned an adult business.

One Spotsylvania Democratic Committee member did come to Dickinson’s defense, saying he agreed with all of the potential candidate’s stances on issues. Dickinson, who said he was proud to be a liberal Democrat, expressed support for gun control, the Affordable Care Act and other causes that conservatives oppose.

Dickinson recently made waves by writing on Twitter that the Federal Communications Commission needs to “monitor Fox News.” He said he taped an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that will air tonight at 10.

“The FCC needs to monitor news agencies to see that what they put out there is actually the truth,” Dickinson told the Spotsylvania Democratic Committee.

Cantor, the House majority leader who was first elected in 2000, easily won reelection in 2012. Economics professor David Brat is challenging him in the GOP primary.

“There’s no doubt it’s an uphill climb,” Dickinson said of his candidacy. “Congressman Cantor, he’s the New York Yankees of politics.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402