Where’s Denver?: Riggleman refutes claims he hasn’t been accessible

Denver Riggleman hasn’t hosted an in-person town hall since taking office, but says he’s made himself accessible in other ways. (Photo courtesy of Denver Riggleman) Denver Riggleman hasn’t hosted an in-person town hall since taking office, but says he’s made himself accessible in other ways. (Photo courtesy of Denver Riggleman)

Amid complaints from local residents that he hasn’t made himself available to constituents, Congressman Denver Riggleman has scheduled his first in-person town hall meeting for August 28—in Danville.

The Republican representative of Virginia’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives took office in January, when he published a pledge that said he would “conduct town halls throughout the district” once he was settled in. Seven months into his term, Riggleman has only held one town hall, by phone, but says he’s met with constituents in other ways.

“I don’t know if you want to call them town halls, but we certainly have been doing listening tours with every type of constituency we have, so I think the town halls, listening tours, roundtables, all those are pretty much the same thing,” Riggleman says. He says he plans to hold a town hall in Charlottesville “in the next four to five months.”

Craig DuBose is a Charlottesville resident who grew disgruntled with Riggleman’s lack of town hall meetings. The carpenter, who similarly pursued Riggleman’s predecessor, Tom Garrett, decided to organize a “constituent day” with other voters on August 26 at Riggleman’s office.

The event was promoted by Indivisible Charlottesville—an anti-Trump group that advocates for holding public officials accountable—with the idea that residents could visit Riggleman’s local office to voice their concerns about what’s going on in the district. The congressman says he wasn’t aware of the constituent day prior to it happening.

“How many times do we have to show and ask you to respond to this before you either respond to it or tell us you’re not going to?” DuBose says. He started making regular visits to the office in July with a group of fellow residents to try and speak with Riggleman, with no success.

Fourteen people marked on Facebook that they stopped by the office Monday, and 37 said they were interested. A Riggleman staffer confirmed multiple people had visited that morning but wouldn’t disclose a number.

As it turns out, the congressman was in fact in Charlottesville on Monday, meeting with local farmers and lawmakers at Roslyn Farm. He also attended a roundtable at the crop processing company Nutrien Ag Solutions in South Hill. Richard Fox, the owner of Roslyn Farm, says local farmers feel like their voices are heard by Riggleman, who co-owns a distillery with his wife Christine in Afton.

“Over the last couple years, building those relationships with local farmers has definitely helped him just hit the ground running,” Fox says. “At the end of the day, you can talk with Denver and he actually knows what you’re saying. He can talk some farm stuff and he gets it just because he’s at least had to be on the other end of the commodity industry.”

In his weekly newsletter sent to subscribers July 26, Riggleman wrote that he was “excited to visit with constituents” during Congress’ yearly August recess. He spent a majority of the first two weeks of the month visiting facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border and taking a congressional delegation trip to Israel before making a business tour across the district.

“It’s just not true, I mean that’s ridiculous,” Riggleman says of those claiming their voices aren’t being heard. “Instead of screaming all the time, just maybe look at what I’m doing…I think most of the people complaining are just specifically in Charlottesville with a certain group of people, and that’s fine. But don’t be disingenuous. That’s just absurd.”

Paul Bostrom is a Charlottesville resident who visited Riggleman’s office as part of the constituent day. He hoped to ask Riggleman about his stance on some of President Trump’s recent comments. Although he can’t attend Riggleman’s town hall in Danville on Wednesday, because it’s two hours away, Bostrom wants to hear from Riggleman directly about Trump and some of the issues pertinent to the district.

“I want to hear more from his mouth about what’s going on in the district and what’s going on in Congress,” he says.

With no firm date set for a town hall in Charlottesville, Riggleman invites city residents to follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter in order to stay informed on what he’s doing in Congress. DuBose, who is an active commenter on Riggleman’s Facebook page, claims some of his comments have disappeared from the congressman’s official Facebook page, an allegation Riggleman denies. He stresses that constituents can schedule meetings with him at his local offices, but that representing such a large district pulls him in many different directions.

“I think what people need to understand is we have a district that’s 10,000 square miles, 21 counties, and Charlottesville specifically is 1/1,000th of the district geographically,” Riggleman says. “So it’s great that they’re planning a constituent day, but I’m meeting with constituents in multiple counties every month. It’s a challenge with a district bigger than New Jersey [and] hopefully people understand that.”

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Zach M
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Zach M

According to Cville Tomorrow, the Charlottesville metro area population is 235,096. According to Ballotpedia, the total 5th District population is 726,376. That means close to a third of Riggleman’s constituents live in or near Charlottesville, in contrast to the fatuous “1/1,000th of the district geographically” statistic he uses.

Be intellectually honest
Guest
Be intellectually honest

To be fair, the Charlottesville metro area includes:

Albemarle
Buckingham
Fluvanna
Greene
Nelson

Riggleman is clearly refering to the city limits (population of Charlottesville city is between 40 and 50,000).

John
Guest
John

How is it clear that he was referring to the city? Can you point out how you were able to actually see that based upon the quote? I sure don’t. Perhaps his angry and dismissive tone got in the way of clearly articulating what he had intended to say?

Be intellectually honest
Guest
Be intellectually honest

Because he says that the city is geographically tiny compared to his whole district. “Charlottesville specifically is 1/1,000th of the district geographically”. The Cville metro area is not tiny compared to his whole district. I mean, just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you get to discard common sense when you criticize them. Come on…

John
Guest
John

I applaud your masterful reading skills! You are able to infer things that just aren’t there. Have you considering patenting your skills and perhaps offering an online course for people? That way they can read and believe anything they like whether it’s true or not.

Be intellectually honest
Guest
Be intellectually honest

I notice that nowhere in your comment do you indicate that you believe I’m wrong.

You must get exhausted finding things to object to. Breathe.

JRM
Guest
JRM

Denver Riggleman is active and makes public appearances. I saw him at Darden on June 28th. I was impressed with his public speaking skills and was surprised to learn that he attributes facebook advertising to his business success. I don’t blame him for wanting to duck hostile audiences and venues. The goal of some activists is to disrupt any public appearance that Riggleman makes. And I am no fan of political theater. But I think he risks not being responsive to the concerns of his voters. Yes, you can write to his office, but you will get a reply that… Read more »

Nancy
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Nancy

Quoting a Republican who ran for office to tell us how accessible Riggleman has been in ridiculous! Of course he’s responsive to those who agree with him. The true test of s politician is how they treat those who don’t agree, and Righkeman has been dismissive and arrogant.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Nancy, you clearly have had no interaction with Mr. Riggleman. It’s a shame you and other like you attack someone when you have no clue. But unfortunately people like you do that today.

John
Guest
John

Brad, I’ve had many interactions with him and know many who have as well (including mutual friends who are very disappointed in his tenure thus far). Nancy is absolutely right. Dismissive, arrogant… those are just a start. He’s floundering because he’s hitched his wagon to Trump and knows it’s sinking his party and his own political ambitions. It’s a major reason why Riggleman is going to lose his re-election bid. Hell, the guy only carried his home county by 20 or so votes. This district deserves and demands better.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Has the article’s author not heard of email or a letter? Why haven’t the subjects written the Congressman? Or is their goal to harass and embarrass him?

Riggleman ducks tough questions
Guest
Riggleman ducks tough questions

I wrote the congressman in March and received an auto-reply that he would be soon responding and how he worked for me.

He has never actually replied to my email other than this auto-response. I think he ducks tough but fair questions.

My taxes went up as a result of the tax reform that he says he supports. I wanted to hear from him why he supports my taxes going up.

He seems like a coward to me, but that is only my impression based on my interaction with him.

John
Guest
John

I asked the same question about taxes. Mine also went up. And I’ve also inquired about insurance costs as well. I even wrote an asked about the pipeline, something he and I both agree on and are against! These are actual issues that impact finances and lives. Again, receiving a clear explanation that contextualizes and articulates the thought process on that vote–or at least speaking about that issue to some degree publicly and acknowledging that vote hurt a lot of us–doesn’t seem like too much to ask of an elected official.

John
Guest
John

I’ve written him numerous times. The replies I get seem auto-generated and have never fully addressed or answered the actual question I asked. He jukes and jives and ducks. And I know I am not alone in this. Others have shared their stories, even the letters they’ve gotten. Asking him legitimate questions to keep us better informed and to learn more about his views and the issues seems like a pretty basic tenant of what our elected officials are responsible for. Do you expect or suggest constituents to just put up with such actions?

democracy
Guest
democracy

Denver Riggleman votes no differently than his disgraced predecessor, Tom Garrett. He votes with Trump more than 94 percent of the time, including his recent vote that essentially endorsed Trump’s racism.

If you still support the Racist-and-Traitor-in-Chief, then guess what that says about you?

democracy
Guest
democracy

Denver Riggleman is – essentially – a proxy for Donald Trump. He votes with Trump more than 94 percent of the time. And Trump has proven himself to be the nation’s Racist-and-Traitor-in-Chief.

So, what’s that say about Riggleman? And his supporters?