In his two years in the House of Representatives, Denver Riggleman sided with Donald Trump on 94.5 percent of votes, according to FiveThirtyEight. But that wasn’t conservative enough for central Virginia’s Republican loyalists, who ended Riggleman’s run in Congress after just one term.
At a June 13 drive-thru party convention, Riggleman lost the nomination to Bob Good, a far-right Republican who has been a county supervisor and Liberty University athletics administrator. Good decided to run because he felt betrayed by Riggleman’s decision to officiate a gay wedding last year.
The election itself was unorthodox. The party held a nominating convention, rather than a primary. That’s not too uncommon for Congressional races—Democrats in the 5th District selected their 2018 nominee through a convention—but this time, due to coronavirus, the 2,500 delegates cast their votes without ever getting out of their cars. The election was held in Campbell County, Good’s home court, and the challenger took home 58 percent of the vote.
Riggleman has protested just about every step of this unusual nominating process, and at midnight on the day of the convention, he tweeted “ballot stuffing has been reported in multiple counties in the #VA05. Voter fraud has been a hallmark of this nomination process.”
Good opposes abortion in all cases, supports “securing America’s borders” against immigration, and wants to make English the national language.
Despite winning the nomination, Good might not literally be on the ballot in November. Just before the convention, it was announced that his campaign failed to turn in the required paperwork to appear on the ballot in the general election. The Virginia Republican Party has asked for an extension, but if it isn’t granted Good will have to run a write-in campaign. (Another Republican running for congress also failed to turn his paperwork in on time—Nick Freitas. You may remember him because he did the same thing last year, and had to run a write-in campaign for the House of Delegates.)
Good’s election is part of a pattern of Republicans turning rightwards in key races around the state. In 2018, they chose conservative firebrand Corey Stewart, who made his name defending Confederate monuments, as their standard-bearer against U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. The only Republican who has so far declared for the 2021 governor’s nomination is state Senator Amanda Chase—earlier this month, Chase said that taking down the Lee statue was “erasing the history of white people,” inspiring a selection of her more established GOP colleagues in the state Senate to compose a joint statement calling her comments “idiotic, inappropriate, and inflammatory.”
These conservative choices come at the end of a decade in which the party has been repeatedly pummeled at the polls. The Virginia GOP has not won a statewide election since 2009, lost three of its seven Congressional seats in 2018, and lost the state House and Senate in 2019, even though the election took place on maps that Republicans had gerrymandered in their favor.
Virginia’s 5th District is also gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor, but in 2018 the election here was as close as it has ever been. The concurrent presidential election will mean high turnout for this year’s Congressional contest, which usually favors Democrats. Virginia Democrats will hold their primary to select Good’s challenger on June 23.