VA-05 was targeted by Democrats in 2018, but it was one of the very few they fell short in. Current congressman Denver Riggleman kept the seat in GOP hands by about 20,000 votes and seemed destined to keep this seat in 2020. Now though, because of an outdated and unfair nomination system, far-right activists may succeed in unseating Congressman Riggleman through a convention for poor reasons.
The Activist Opposing Riggleman
In late 2019, it was confirmed that the incumbent would be getting a congressional primary from local activist Bob Good. Good, who sits on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, stated that he was running because Riggleman had “betrayed the trust of his voters”. Good claims that Riggleman has not supported President Trump on most of his key issues, mainly because of his opposition to the border wall. The Riggleman campaign claims though, that this primary challenge is because of something that should much less controversial.
The controversy that shouldn’t be a controversy
The reason behind why Riggleman has gotten a challenger is because he officiated a gay friend’s wedding in the summer of 2019. This enraged some of the farther right and even got him censured by the Rappahannock County GOP. This is the main catalyst behind Bob Good’s run and it’s a major disappointment to me that this is the reason behind a challenge. As a young member of the Republican Party, I can tell you that the issue of gay marriage has been settled among young Americans across the political spectrum. We do not need more fanaticism in our ranks when we need to get more moderate and more accepting.
Candidates like Riggleman are perfect for a seat like VA-05. It is not solidly conservative, but should be easy enough to keep. Candidates like Riggleman, who are more moderate on social issues, keep seats like these safe. When Jerry Falwell calls the issue of gay marriage “decided”, people should understand where the issue has gone. It is crucial for the GOP of the future to be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. They can certainly lean conservative and be a part of our voting bloc. More examples like this do not help our matters there. I am fine when a primary is held because the incumbent is not fully representing the seat; what Democrats did in IL-03 should be an example of when a person should be primaried, not this.
The convention system needs to go too
This primary challenge wouldn’t be a big issue though, if the system for choosing a candidate wasn’t archaic. In Virginia, candidates can be nominated by either a primary or at a convention. While I can see how this would be fine in safe seats, in seats like VA-05, conventions need to go.
The convention system gives more power to areas within the district that are more conservative or liberal, respectively. This puts Riggleman at a huge disadvantage. Coming from a more libertarian sect of the GOP, Riggleman’s supporters are less likely to be involved in a convention. Not only that, the power brokers in the district have decided to hold a drive-through convention at Bob Good’s church.
The way that this will be decided is a disgrace. If the voters in the 5th want Riggleman out, they could have done so in a primary. The fact that the power brokers have decide to go this way to unseat someone for officiating a wedding that married two gay men should be upsetting to all involved. They have made sure that Riggleman will be out and could put the seat in danger because of it.
Virginia’s GOP needs to reform this path
The only way that this is going to change is from the top. The Virginia GOP must make a legitimate attempt at reform once this is over. Issues like this are a huge part of the reason why the GOP is bleeding support in Virginia. If this party wants to have a shot at relevance in the future, stopping issues like what is happening in the VA-05 would be a crucial step forward for the party. They must take action so the party as a whole can begin to grow again in the bluing state of Virginia.