Despite predictions that the race would be down to the wire, voters in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District elected Republican Denver Riggleman over Democrat Leslie Cockburn by a margin of 53.58 percent to 46.24 percent (329 out of 330 precincts reporting).
Cockburn, a retired journalist, was initially favored because of her head start in the campaign. She had declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination more than a year before Riggleman even entered the race. Riggleman’s nomination was gained under unusual circumstances, when incumbent Representative Tom Garrett announced he would not seek re-election after one term, just about ten days before the June primary election. Riggleman was selected, according to Republican Party rules and Virginia election law, by the members of the Fifth Congressional District GOP committee — where he prevailed by one vote on the fourth ballot.
Riggleman is a retired Air Force intelligence officer who has also been a consultant to the Pentagon on intelligence and cybersecurity issues. His family business is the Silverback Distillery in Nelson County, and the regulatory hurdles that enterprise faced were among the reasons he first sought public office, in an abortive campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2017. His last-minute entry in the bizarre nomination process for Congress thrust him into the limelight. In this interview, he discusses his formula that led to victory, including an infusion of campaign funds in the month leading to November 6.
At an election night party at Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Riggleman was surrounded by supporters who greeted him boisterously. He spent more time hugging friends and shaking hands than he did in delivering a formal victory address. He may have been as surprised by the lopsided results as his opponent, whose election night party at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in Charlottesville was subdued by disappointment. I predicted long ago that Cockburn would win in a landslide — in the City of Charlottesville. (That prediction was borne out by the results : 84.61 percent for Cockburn, 15.09 percent for Riggleman in the Fifth District’s bluest locality.)
Congressman-elect Riggleman generously offered about five minutes of his time for an exclusive interview with The Score from Bearing Drift. He noted which committees he’ll seek to be appointed to (Financial Services, Agriculture, Armed Services) and said he’s already spoken to his predecessor, Tom Garrett. No doubt the two will have frequent conversations between now and January 3.
The new representative also replied to my question about reaching across the aisle to cooperate on issues of common concern. “I think we see a lot of the same problems,” he said, “if you talk about health care and things like that…. If we actually talk, and sit down, I think we can come to some type of compromise within the left/right limits of the Constitution, and come up with something where people can afford health care, there’s more transparency, we also protect those less fortunate. I don’t know why can’t have it all. We’re Americans, for God’s sake, so I don’t know why we can’t do it.”
There’s more than that nugget in the audio interview posted above. Listen to it now, and then listen to the next regular episode of The Score, coming up this weekend.