Denver Riggleman Is the Best Political Show in Virginia Politics

There’s new political talk on the Virginia scene that’s tough, funny and has no patience for the fringes on either side of the aisle.

Let’s call it “Denver: Unplugged.”

As in Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), the distillery owner who will be returning home after a bizarre and allegedly fraud-tinged drive-through convention denied him renomination. Since then, Riggleman has been throwing verbal elbows, and not only at the local party apparatchiks he believes engineered his defeat.

He’s been swinging at the bizarre QAnon conspiracy junkies making their way to Congress. Riggleman has called them enemies to intelligence and common sense and their beliefs “the mental gonorrhea of conspiracy theories.”

Not a bad start for a new host looking to make his mark in the Virginia commentariat. Except Riggleman wants to be more than a talk jockey.

In an interview with Bloomberg Radio, Riggleman said “The Virginia Republican Party is so broken” that the time might have come for “a third-party run” for governor.

The last truly third-party candidate to make a splash, and a difference, on Election Day was Libertarian Party nominee Robert Sarvis in the 2013 gubernatorial race. Those were unique circumstances: The major party nominees — Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli II — were deeply polarizing figures, and Sarvis benefited from it. Could the major parties do something similar in 2021 — say, a race between state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield) and McAuliffe? Probably not (but don’t bet against it just yet).

In the 2005 gubernatorial race, then-Sen. Russ Potts (R) made a self-styled “independent Republican” bid against Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore. Potts flopped at the ballot box.

If Riggleman really does think he needs to make statewide run to burn the crazy out of the GOP’s bloodstream and the “Marxism” out of the Democratic Party, then his chances of success are (theoretically) higher running for the GOP nomination.

Trouble is, Riggleman believes the GOP is under the thumb of “theocrats” — an allusion to the man who defeated him for the 5th Congressional District nomination, former Campbell County supervisor and self-proclaimed “biblical conservative” Bob Good.

Maybe Riggleman’s theocrats believe they are in control. Certainly, they and their cronies were able to toss him aside, in part because he dared officiate at a same-sex wedding. But at the state level, they have been in full retreat before successive Democratic waves.

That’s not to say the fringe don’t have substantial say over what remains of the once-formidable Virginia GOP.

As I wrote last week, the fringes have deemed those who voted for Medicaid expansion as traitors and heretics, crimes worthy of defeat — even if it takes extraordinary measures to make it happen.

Riggleman’s offense ranks even higher. He’s a RINO. And not even the president’s unreserved endorsement could overcome the fringe’s determination to drive Riggleman out of office.

If Republicans pick their 2021 statewide candidates via a convention, then Riggleman should run as an independent. A convention organized and run in the current GOP environment would hardly tolerate his presence.

If Republicans opt for a primary, then Riggleman would likely have to contend with Del. Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights), whose chances of winning the gubernatorial nomination are much greater in a primary setting.

And then there’s Chase, whose candidacy is approaching an Andy Kaufman-like level of surreal entertainment. Riggleman says that he doesn’t have anything personal against Chase, but he thinks a candidate needs to have “a sober look at government” and notes that he “certainly [doesn’t] yell as much.”

Continue reading at the Washington Post.

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