To hear some in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District tell it, Delegate Ben Cline is the epitome of an establishment politician — after all, he’s an elected official. Let’s ignore for a few moments the fact that Cline’s reputation in Richmond has been that of a conservative stalwart.

One has to wonder: what incentive does an actual conservative have to run for state offices like delegate, let alone Board of Supervisors or School Board?

This isn’t a criticism of Cynthia Dunbar, Cline’s chief opponent in the upcoming 6th District convention. I know little of Dunbar aside from what her supporters push and the fact that she was a Cruz backer in the presidential primary.

It is, however, a lament aimed at some of her most vocal supporters. After all, Ben Cline has a lifetime 96% rating from the American Conservative Union. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and was given a 97% from the VCDL. NARAL and the AFL-CIO hate him, and rate him in the basement. The Farm Bureau and NFIB like him while the Sierra Club endorses against him.

By any objective standard, Ben Cline is precisely the type of conservative that we should reward. Cline has only one cardinal sin — he actually got elected to a lesser office, and it’s one that dooms him in the minds of some. That’s a shame, because a refusal to elevate people like Cline, who have battled and ignored the corrupting influences of incumbency, sends the exact wrong message to aspiring conservatives.

This trend is disturbing, and has been developing all over the country for years. Being an elected official has doomed otherwise stellar candidates in primary fights.

This isn’t to say that the nomination in the 6th District is Ben Cline’s for the taking. It’s up to Shenandoah Valley Republicans to decide who their standard-bearer should be. If they choose Dunbar, so be it, but it shouldn’t be because of some fake narrative accusing Ben Cline of being part of the problem, when he has been fighting for solutions.