Bob Good’s improbable victory over incumbent Denver Riggleman should have been seen from miles away. But it happened exactly as folks said it would happen.
Riggleman is a more libertarian leaning candidate who warmly accepted the support of President Donald Trump before bizarrely turning on him in recent weeks. Contrary to the left-wing media’s depiction of the race, Riggleman’s cardinal sin was not that he held a “gay wedding” which inspired angry knuckledraggers to grab their torches and pitchforks. Instead, it was Riggleman’s post-wedding interview on the John Frederick’s Show where he taunted evangelical Republicans to come after him and “pack a lunch” if they did so.
Thus the values of Mr. Jefferson’s University clash with the values of Mr. Falwell’s University and the end result? Virginia’s Fifth District is more conservative than libertarian… and for those who are looking into the tea leaves and wondering what the future of the GOP might be writ large? Here’s your first and early sign.
Bob Good is not a traditional candidate. A former one-term supervisor in Campbell County, Good knows what it is like to govern during one of the toughest economic climates since the Great Recession.
Good’s conservative bona fides are pretty rigid. Instinctively on the side of small government, Good’s Christian faith isn’t something where he chooses to hide the football, even if in the past Good has not been entirely clear on how to express it.
Still, given the center of gravity that is the University of Virginia and the changing demographics of the greater Albemarle County area, it stands to reason that the Fifth District of Virginia — which once held conservative stalwart Virgil Goode only to see it slip into the hands of Democratic candidate Tom Perriello — might stand to repeat this feat of engineering even after Republican redistricting welded that door shut.
Naturally, the missteps of Tom Garrett (currently recovering from alcoholism and after being charged with ethical violations) did not serve the district well. Republican grassroots don’t take to being treated like a springboard that well, and Riggleman’s efforts to restore confidence among the rank-and-file were paying off in spades.
The question now remains as to whether or not Good has inherited the hedgerows that Riggleman and his campaign team carefully built. Similarities to Virginia’s 7th District where Dave Brat succumbed to now-incumbent Abigail Spanberger remain a constant reminder that no race (and no district) can be taken for granted.
Yet Good has many advantages that Brat did not.
First and foremost is the composition of the district. VA-05 remains a largely rural part of Virginia, whereas the heavily suburbanized VA-07 (designed to hold a US House Speaker) surrendered rather quickly to the “blue wave” of 2017 as the nation acclimated to President Trump’s populist appeal.
Second, while the word Trump may be highly charged in northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, the president’s appeal in western Virginia is near meteoric. Running with the president is a winner in Southside — not a tow anchor — and Republicans are not just strong in this part of the state, but triumphantly so.
Third, Good’s opposition — Dr. Cameron Webb — is spending a great deal of money, time and resources attempting to define Good as something he is not while fumbling to a response to Webb’s own call to “defund the police”. The ads that have continued to hammer Webb raise what is perhaps the second greatest issue in the national election (the first being the pandemic and health care). Webb’s insistence that law enforcement be defunded as a starting point for any future conversation is a wall that Webb cannot easily climb, despite Webb’s good nature and position in the community.
Critics will point to a rather lackluster campaign effort from Good. Boosters will point to the pandemic on top of consistent crowds and enthusiasm from well wishers who not only like Good’s easy-going manner, but are genuinely concerned that Webb would simply represent a low-octane version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
For those reasons, Good should find himself in the driver’s seat for a comfortable and predictable November win. Good’s temperament, his sincerity, and above all his honest and straightforward approach to questions that matter should reassure voters that Good will represent them faithfully and well.