by Kellen Squire
Ahh, the month of Knocktober; the first one I’ve gotten to really participate in since 2019.
While Virginia has cemented itself as a battleground race, with more than one outlet suggesting control of the House of Representatives runs through our Commonwealth, I’ve been focused on one race in particular: my friend Josh Throneburg’s race for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. VA-05, which stretches from Charlottesville all the way to the North Carolina border, is currently represented by the odious Bob Good.
Bob – and I understand this is a high bar to clear – may well be the very worst Representative in the entire building. He’s definitely the worst Congressman you’ve never heard of, as he eschews the purposeful theatrics of Lauren Boebert, Majorie Taylor Greene, and the like. Unlike some of those folks, who don’t have any principles, political or otherwise, beyond what will enable them to grift the hardest, Bob actually believes all the stuff he says.
It wouldn’t be hard for Josh Throneburg to be better than Bob Good. Bob supported the insurrection. Bob thinks that birth control and abortion should only be legal for Republican politicians. Bob is the kind of guy who’d tell an emergency department nurse in his district, during the height of the pandemic, that COVID was a hoax. So being better than Bob is a pretty low bar to clear.
But Josh isn’t just better than Bob Good – Josh is an amazing candidate. He was a farm kid who became an ordained minister, who volunteered to go across the world to work hard and serve others. He is smart. He’s sincere. And, most importantly to me, he actually gives a damn about each and every person he is running to represent, every Virginian in every corner of the 5th Congressional District.
This is an aggressive race, but as the national climate has shifted in favor of Democrats, the chance we can finally take down Congressman Good has become very real. And since the race for my seat in the Virginia House of Delegates isn’t until 2023, I’ve leveraged the resources of our campaign to do everything we can to help send Josh to Washington, DC.
Which is how I found myself with three of our volunteers over a recent weekend, knocking doors in the rain for Josh. While his team is busy hitting key targets they need to turn out to win, I sat down with my field team to ask where we could make the biggest difference in their race. And after a long discussion, we decided that lay in plowing through the voters in our voter database with no information listed about them. Hundreds, if not thousands, of voters are brand new for whatever reason – redistricted into the 5th Congressional District, moved here from elsewhere; whatever the case may be, they’re here now. Are they Republican? Democrat? Independent?
There’s only one way to find that out: the hard way. Knock each door, make personal contact, and see how things go.
Predictably, it was a mixed bag of results for the day. A couple of polite “no thank you’s” when people found out who I was knocking for. One “Go away!” through a Ring doorbell. And amazingly, one person who tried to convince me that Bob Good was actually doing a good job, but struggled so mightily to give me an example of that even they seemed to concede the folly of their own argument.
But I also had plenty of great feedback. Enthusiastic thumbs up. A woman who hollered for her wife to come to the door so I could tell her about Josh, too. Someone who told me, “Save that literature for someone else, he’s already got my vote!” and asked for a bumper sticker instead. One lady who told me “Bob is almost as bad as (Glenn) Youngkin, or maybe worse!” which led to me telling her I knew that firsthand.
But, as I’ve found with every time I’ve gone out and knocked doors, there’s always one story you take away that’ll highlight the day for better or worse. In 2017, I had a voter wrap their arms around me in a bear hug as I knocked in ruby red Rockingham County, screaming, “Thank Christ, finally, a Democrat!” In 2018, I (somehow) barely avoided having an aneurysm after doing the mental gymnastics to understand a voter who told me “I love all of Tim Kaine’s policy positions, but he’s just such a jerk, I’m voting for Corey Stewart.” In 2019, I got stuck on a rural Rivanna, Virginia porch in the rain, and after thirty minutes convinced the strong Republican I was talking to to vote for both state legislature candidates on the ballot.
This time was no different.
I rounded the corner of a street, and immediately saw the house I was supposed to knock – and, presumably, the voter I was supposed to talk to standing in the driveway, detailing a Ford F-150 parked in the driveway. A red, yellow, and green decal adorned the back of his truck, and a religious emblem peered out of one of the windows of his house.
Ahh, I thought to myself, a Catholic Vietnam War combat veteran. But that didn’t mean much beyond those surface meanings to me; I’ve long learned to put away preconditions when I’m knocking on doors. I was once lectured by elderly African-American lady on how Obama was a secret Muslim, while I’ve had a Realtree camouflage-festooned white dude with a beer gut from Louisa, Virginia detail the myriad ways Hillary Clinton was superior to Donald Trump. Rare, sure, but I’m always willing to listen and wait to see how things go.
“Hi there,” I waved, rounding the corner, the gentleman glancing up from his auto detailing as I approached. “My name is Kellen Squire, I’m an ER Nurse and I’m out here knocking on doors today for my friend Josh Throneburg.”
At Josh’s name, this gentleman’s whole head jerked up. I had his full attention.
“Josh Throneburg?!” he asked me, angrily, wheeling on me and jabbing a finger in my direction. “Is he the guy running against Bob Good?!”
“Yes, sir,” I said, a little more confidently than I actually felt. I had an incident in 2019 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where a MAGA voter almost began a physical altercation with me. I didn’t relish having to read headlines like “DELEGATE CANDIDATE PUNCHED BY WHILE CANVASSING FOR JOSH THRONEBURG”.
Too late now, though. “You tell Josh,” the voter said angrily, “that he needs to go after Bob Good’s (expletive) (male reproductive organs). I got a real suspicion Bob’s been (graphic description censored), but Josh needs to land one square on where they’re supposed to be!”
I unsuccessfully tried to stifle a huge grin, while also breathing a silent sigh of relief things had turned in the direction they had.
My friend – we’ll call him Mike – was personally offended anyone would support Representative Bob Good. “I didn’t get drafted in ’68 and go to ‘Nam to be represented by a chickenshit like Bob,” he told me, and almost mournfully added, “I can’t understand anyone that would stand behind someone who doesn’t have an ounce of spine.”
Mike told me about some of his buddies who “get down on their knees for these (expletive) who haven’t worked a hard day in their lives, who want to sell our country right down the river,” and I could hear the anguish in his voice as he talked about it. I’ve watched people I previously respected sell themselves out at the altar of Donald Trump – not just voting for him idly, but going all in and – just as Mike described – selling their self-respect for Donald Trump, and it’s been just as tough to watch. “Donald Trump! Of all people, they’re selling themselves to a guy who’s never worked a hard day in his life!”
“I hear you, sir,” I told him. “I get down on my knees to pray, and that’s it. I appreciate (President) Joe (Biden) a bunch, but I would never sell myself on his account, or anyone else’s.”
“Can Josh win?” Mike asked me at the end of our chat. And I told him, without hesitation: yes. Yes, Josh can absolutely win. He’s smart. He’s sincere. And most importantly of all, Josh actually gives a damn about every single person he is running to represent.
So if you are looking for a race to weigh in on, where your donation will absolutely make a difference in helping to get rid of the worst Congressman in the entire country, I need you to dig deep and donate today. Although my state legislature race may be the toughest in Virginia next year – running against the most entrenched Republican incumbent in Virginia, in the bluest district the Virginia GOP still holds- it will only be harder if we cannot kick Bob Good out of Washington, DC.