In brief: GOP scrambles, council contretemps, stormy waters and more

Distiller Denver Riggleman secures the 5th District GOP nomination by one vote.
Submitted photo Distiller Denver Riggleman secures the 5th District GOP nomination by one vote. Submitted photo

Riggleman snatches 5th District Republican nomination

Five days after Congressman Tom Garrett announced he would not seek re-election to deal with alcoholism, distiller and former gubernatorial candidate Denver Riggleman fended off 10 other candidates in a five-hour marathon meeting June 2 at Nelson County High in Lovingston and secured the nomination by one vote.

Because Garrett’s announcement came so late in the election cycle, the 5th District GOP committee’s 37 members decided who the party’s pick would be to face off against Dem nominee Leslie Cockburn in November.

The committee had four rounds of voting, and until the last round, Riggleman trailed Cynthia Dunbar, who lost the 6th District nomination two weeks earlier and whose far-right positions would have made the red-leaning 5th District a toss-up, according to pundits at UVA’s Center for Politics.

Riggleman and his wife, Christine, own Silverback Distillery, which uses the nickname the couple’s daughters bestowed upon Riggleman, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and Department of Defense contractor.

Last year, Riggleman briefly was a candidate for governor before withdrawing. The libertarian-leaning Republican says he’ll join the House Freedom Caucus if elected to Congress.

Riggleman has publicly groused about Virginia’s Prohibition-era laws governing alcohol sales, and he told the Washington Post if he’d known about the state’s arcane regs, he and his wife would never have set up shop here. Riggleman also has fought Dominion Energy, which planned to run its controversial pipeline through his Afton property.

“I need you to have an understanding of what it really means to be black.”—Activist Rosia Parker to City Council June 4 after she was not named to the city police citizen panel

Civilian review board controversy

City Council named seven people to an independent police review panel in a 3-2 vote Monday, and consternation ensued. Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Councilor Wes Bellamy voted against the appointments, which did not include some police critics like civil rights lawyer Jeff Fogel. Activist Don Gathers, who was appointed to the board, said the fact the council vote was made on racial lines “should be problematic to people.”

“The Silly Clowncil Song”

Charlottesville City Council meetings have become must-see TV over the past year as they spiraled out of control. Now council has its own parody song and video, courtesy of former tea partier Carole Thorpe and former councilor Rob Schilling. Thorpe sings and penned new lyrics to “Goodbye Cruel World,” a 1961 James Darren hit, and Schilling produced the video.

New confederate real estate

staff photo

A billboard courtesy of the Virginia Flaggers has been catching eyes on East High Street since May 1. A bronze Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is depicted riding his trusty steed next to a quote that’s attributed to him: “All I am and all I have is at the service of my country.” Says proud flagger Grayson Jennings, “Looks good, doesn’t it?”

Slow down, Nikuyah

When Mayor Nikuyah Walker was pulled over for allegedly driving 43mph in a 25mph zone in September, she was given a ticket and convicted in November. She appealed the driving infraction June 1 in Charlottesville Circuit Court, where a second judge also found her guilty of driving too fast, but reduced her fine by $200, to $90, according to attorney Jeff Fogel.

Television tactics

UVA Health System professionals are testing whether focused sound waves can treat hypothalamic hamartoma, a rare brain mass that causes a “giggling” form of epilepsy, after the experimental approach was used on a recent episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Neurologist Nathan Fountain, the principal investigator of this clinical trial, says, “It was a very clever and surprising use of our research.” UVA is recruiting test participants from ages 18 to 80.

The water’s (mostly) fine

photo Tom Daly

Just in time for swimming season, new bacteria monitoring results from the James River Association show that the river is generally safe for recreation about 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent? Eh.

Seventeen percent of collected samples showed levels of pollution that are unsafe for swimming, but those were mostly taken after significant rainfall, when bacteria washes into the James from surrounding land and sewage systems.

“This data demonstrates that our local waterways are safe for recreation most of the time, but extra caution is necessary after rainstorms,” says Jamie Brunkow, a James River riverkeeper. In other words, the throngs of people who will undoubtedly flock to the river in the summer heat might want to check its conditions before they grab their beach towels and beer coolers.

And the association makes that easy with its website called James River Watch, which shows what’s up with the waterway at all times.

The health of the river is determined by location, with highest health scores of 100 percent given to Chickahominy Riverfront Park in James City and the James River Fishing Pier in Newport News, and the worst score of 63 percent given to Rocketts Landing in Richmond. Both Charlottesville public access points on the Rivanna River, a tributary of the James, at Riverview and Darden Towe parks, pass with percentages in the mid-80s.


• 4 million annual visitors to the James River

• 6.5 million pounds of commercial seafood caught annually

• 200 public access sites on the James and its tributaries

• 236,217 hunting and fishing licenses purchased within the watershed in 2016

• $18.9 billion annual economic benefits provided by the river

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