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Sound the alarms / February 19, 2020
We received an e-mail Tuesday from the office of state Sen. Frank Ruff requesting the publication of a press release. Panic attack seems more like it. But you be the judge:

Call to Arms!

Many have asked what can be done to take back Richmond and clean up the mess in Washington. In Richmond, we are stuck with liberal Democrats until at least 2022.

However, in Washington there is something you can do now!

Nothing would suit Nancy Pelosi more than having Republicans wasting campaign dollars fighting each other. Likewise, she would be more likely to spend big Washington dollars against an unknown, untested candidate.

As well, she would be less likely to waste those big dollars from billionaires like Bloomberg, if Denver Riggleman is our candidate. Denver Riggleman has been tested and has proven to be a vote getter. He has earned the respect of President Trump. We need to reward his commitment to good conservative government.

Therefore, I ask you to consider joining me and take part in the re-nomination process. This is a two-step effort. We need you to attend the Mecklenburg Mass meeting on March 10 in Boydton at 7p.m. in the library and consider being a delegate to the 5th District convention in Campbell County Saturday, April 25.

Frank Ruff

If none of this makes any sense to you, believe me, I feel your pain. Fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, this newspaper receives quite a bit of candidate e-mail, which is how I happen to know why Ruff has reason to be worried.

Denver Riggleman, our first-term GOP congressman in the Fifth District, has competition for the party’s nod to move on to the November general election. It’s hardly unusual for incumbent officeholders to face intra-party competition in primaries or caucuses, but most of the time the challengers are gadfly types no one pays any attention to. This apparently isn’t one of those times.

Riggleman’s challenger for the nomination is Bob Good of Campbell, a member of that county’s board of supervisors. It will come as no surprise that given what little I know about Good, he sounds more or less like your average far-right religious extremist, the sort that has been giving the party establishment fits for years now. That observation doesn’t come from me; I’ve heard it repeated any number of times from Republican Party activists themselves.

Two years ago, Riggleman narrowly claimed the GOP nomination to run for Congress in the Fifth District, beating out religious fundamentalist extremist Cynthia Dunbar by a single vote after four rounds of balloting by 37 local party chairs and activists at Nelson County High School. (It was an emergency called meeting after then-Rep. Tom Garrett announced he wouldn’t run for re-election because of his struggles with alcoholism.) While the sprawling Fifth covers a massive amount of territory, it doesn’t include Dunbar’s home in the Forest community of Bedford County, which lies in the Sixth Congressional District. Yep, you read that right: Riggleman almost lost the nomination to someone who doesn’t live in the Fifth District. Of course, Riggleman would go on to win in November against Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn, running an uphill race in the Republican-leaning Fifth.

Two years later, the congressman’s worries never seem to end, what with somebody named Bob Good now running to take his Capitol Hill sinecure away. Again, I don’t know anything about this fresh challenger to Riggleman, but given how our congressman barely slid into office two years ago, a lack of confidence is probably called for. While Ruff and the usual establishment types rally behind the incumbent, Good has his own well of support to dip into. On the subject of the trash heap that is my e-mail inbox, let it be noted that another message rolled in Tuesday from Lynchburg state Sen. Steve Newman announcing his endorsement of Good. To add insult to injury, former Fifth District Rep. Virgil Goode also supports Good over Riggleman. By my reckoning, Virgil Goode fell into the deep end years ago, but his endorsement might mean something to the party faithful who remember his time in Washington fondly. If I’m a Republican choosing between endorsements by Frank Ruff and Virgil Goode, I know which one I’m more impressed by.

What did poor Denver Riggleman do to deserve all this trouble? He’s a loyal Trumpkin who goes out of his way to play the Pelosi card at every opportunity, just as Ruff reads from the script above. Why this threat from the far-far-far right? Best I can tell, Riggleman earned this challenge by presiding at a same-sex wedding last year for two male volunteers of his campaign. I guess that’s just the sort of heresy that’s guaranteed to get the Bob Goods of the world stirred up. Of course, this episode more broadly speaks to the rampant bigotry within the Republican Party, wherein a show of basic humanity by Riggleman — who, if it isn’t already clear by now, I have no use for — is rewarded with unbridled grief and headache. This is one of my favorite sayings — “No good deed goes unpunished” — on steroids.

On the Democratic side, three candidates are vying for the party’s nod to run for Congress in the fall. One of them, Roger Dean “R.D.” Huffstetler, ran in the party’s 2016 caucuses and lost to Cockburn. Two other candidates, Charlottesville physician Cameron Webb and party activist John Lesinski of Rappahannock County, are credible entries in the Democratic race, which has five contenders all told. Maybe one of the others will surprise. Democrats choose their nominee in a June 9 primary in which anyone can vote — quite the contrast to the Republican process of roping activists into a smoke-filled room to choose their nominee on April 25. Primaries are vastly preferable to caucuses.

Speaking of which, Virginia has a presidential primary coming up March 3, on the Democratic side. Virginia is a Super Tuesday state, with March 3 being the day where 40 percent of all delegates will be awarded toward the nomination. Someone — a good friend, actually — was nice enough this weekend to ask who I support in the race. I’ll probably have more to say on this subject later, but somewhere down the line — after I fretted that America would never elect a black man as president, then believed with much greater conviction that an obvious fraud like Donald Trump had no chance — it dawned on me that I should stop giving in to my obviously unreliable political instincts and just cast my vote for the best person for the job. By this standard, I think the choice for Democrats in 2020 is clear — which is why I’m a big Elizabeth Warren fan. Again, a column for a different day. One thing I will say before signing off: If anyone truly thinks Donald Trump has four more years in the bag, then good for you. Ice cold baths are best left uncontemplated because you never know when you might have to take one.

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