by Brandon Jarvis
After winning a race for an open seat in 2018, a United States Congressman – a Republican – officiated a wedding between two gay men. This resulted in a backlash from his own party, leading to confusion and a threatened lawsuit [UPDATE 4/15: the lawsuit is not going to ever be filed, because the 5th Committee didn’t endorse Rep. Riggleman’s attempt to force the change to a primary].
Denver Riggleman served in the Air Force and as a National Security Agency contractor, before opening a distillery in Albemarle County in 2014. After dropping out of the Republican primary for Virginia Governor in 2017, he ran for the 5th District House of Representatives seat the following year against Leslie Cockburn (D), eventually winning with 53% of the vote.
After Riggleman officiated a wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers who are gay, the Cumberland County Republican Committee passed a motion of no confidence in Riggleman. In addition, the Chairwoman of the committee, Diana Shores, had some harsh words:
“Mr. Riggleman, who claims to want government out of marriage, acted as an elected official to perform a marriage,” she said in an interview at the time with NBC News. “Then, he made it clear in the communications that followed to the leadership of the district that he didn’t care what we thought about the actions. Each district committee can decide if they have further confidence in Congressman Riggleman representing their values. As for me, he doesn’t represent mine.”
This episode helped fuel a challenge to Riggleman from his “right,” by Bob Good, a member of the Campbell County Board of Supervisors and a former fundraiser and Senior Associate Athletics Director at Liberty University.
In an interview with The Hill, Good explained his reason for challenger the freshman congressman:
“Denver Riggleman has betrayed the trust of the conservative Republican base that comprises the bulk of the 5th District with his votes against the border wall in favor of increased immigration, frankly, ignoring President Trump‘s policy on American jobs for American workers, and even restricting the ability of ICE to do their jobs, just to name a few.”
While trying to insist that Riggleman broke from President Trump on these key issues, Good’s challenge received a major blow when President Trump gave Riggleman his “total endorsement” at the end of 2019. In a tweet, the President stated that Riggleman is a conservative and that he defends the right to protect America’s borders.
“Congressman Riggleman is a true CONSERVATIVE leader who has done a great job for Virginia and will support our #MAGA Agenda. He defends our right to bear arms, protect our Borders & help small businesses. Denver has my Total Endorsement!”
Good, the former Liberty employee, also failed to receive praise from his former boss – Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. – who endorsed Riggleman as well.
“I am proud to offer my endorsement of Congressman Denver Riggleman for re-election in the 5th District of Virginia,” said Falwell. “Denver has been a champion for our conservative values in Congress and I respect his commitment to liberty-minded ideals.”
(Note: calls and emails to Good’s campaign were not returned for this story)
This past weekend, the 5th District Republican committee held a meeting on Easter night to try and figure out how to move forward with the planned nominating convention, but failed to come to a decision on how to proceed. Due to executive orders from Governor Northam banning any gathering of groups of people larger than ten, the convention that was planned for April 25th clearly cannot proceed.
Earlier that day, Riggleman sent an email to his supporters informing them that the 5th district GOP Committee Chair and his opponent Good are trying to steal the election by holding a closed door committee vote to select the nominee.
“This morning, I was alerted to an attempt to invalidate the Convention Delegates by Bob Good in coordination with Chairman of the 5th District Republican Committee Melvin Adams.” said Riggleman. “They are trying to take away your right to a vote and instead hold a closed-door meeting of the 5th District committee to determine our party’s nominee.”
A few hours later, Riggleman’s camp accused a supporter of Bob Good of trying to intimidate the committee to influence their votes. There was a “Complaint”/threat of a possible lawsuit being filed in U.S. district court against Riggleman and the 5th district GOP Committee members by a 5th district constituent, Jim Miller. Miller claims that Good is the preferred candidate by more than 60% of the 3,500 registered convention delegates. [UPDATE 4/15: the lawsuit is not going to ever be filed, because the 5th Committee didn’t endorse Rep. Riggleman’s attempt to force the change to a primary].
The Complaint had pointed out that, as the logistics of the convention were being worked out, the Covid-19 pandemic overtook the country. It argued that Riggleman and his campaign tried to take advantage of Northam’s executive orders by reaching out to the committee members to try and encourage a change to a primary election, instead of a convention.
A spokesperson for the Riggleman campaign said they were pushing for a primary election because Riggleman cares about the safety and well-being of his constituents. The spokesperson said the congressman recognizes that cramming everyone into a room for a convention during this health crisis just is not responsible.
But Miller and his co-plaintiffs did not see it this way, as stated in the Complaint.
“On information and belief, Defendant Riggleman and representatives of Defendant Friends of Denver Riggleman, Defendant Woodfin and other individual Defendants, believing that Riggleman was destined to be defeated at the Fifth District Convention, have conspired with each other and members of the District Committee to intimidate other members of the District Committee to circumvent the RPV Party Plan and to support a motion to authorize Defendant Adams and or the Fifth District Committee to join as a co-Petitioner in the proposed Riggleman lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and/or other schemes to change the nomination process in violation of the clear prohibition in Article VIII(A)(11) of the RPV Party Plan and to circumvent that prohibition, thereby depriving Plaintiffs and other similarly situated delegates to the Fifth District Convention of their legal and exclusive, vested right to participate in the nomination process via Convention rather than via a primary election.”
Kurt Lofquist, Riggleman’s campaign manager, said the Complaint was a threat against the committee members to influence their vote.
“This lawsuit is targeting committee members with the express purpose of influencing their vote.” said Lofquist. “The Congressman is appalled and disgusted the Bob Good campaign would allow one of their most ardent supporters to single out committee members in a lawsuit.”
The Complaint was asking for the court to take jurisdiction and to declare the action a violation of the contract rights of the plaintiffs in the case. The Complaint was also asking the court to bar the defendants from filing their own lawsuit in the case that might interfere or undermine the 5th District GOP convention. Lastly, the Complaint was asking that the court rule that the plaintiff’s civil rights were violated, and that the defendants each pay the plaintiffs $50,000 on top of lawyer fees and court costs.
P.S. For the real campaign geeks out there – Riggleman has raised more than $1.1 million, compared to Good’s $109,000. Riggleman has almost $200,000 cash on hand while Good has $97,000.