Liberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman

Liberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman
© Greg Nash

An athletics official at Liberty University is expected to launch a GOP primary challenge to freshman Rep. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanLiberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman Virginia county GOP censures Rep. Riggleman, sparking sharp response House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 MORE in the coming days after the Virginia Republican recently faced pushback from a handful of county officials in his district.

Bob Good, who currently sits in the Campbell County Board of Supervisors and serves as the senior associate athletics director and chief fundraiser for athletics at Liberty University, told The Hill he plans to have a formal announcement in the near future. 

"Denver Riggleman has betrayed the trust of the conservative Republican base that comprises the bulk of the 5th District with his votes against the border wall in favor of increased immigration, frankly, ignoring President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE's policy on American jobs for American workers, and even restricting the ability of ICE to do their jobs, just to name a few,” he told The Hill in an interview.

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“And it's my contention and many others that he has so severely damaged himself within the party that he's made himself unelectable in a general race next November. So I can confirm and will confirm that I responded to the call from the party to give our voters a concerted choice as their nominee and I do plan to formally announce my candidacy soon.”

The expected challenge comes shortly after the Rappahannock County Republican Party in Virginia censured Riggleman, accusing the freshman GOP congressman of “abandoning party principles” on fiscal spending, foreign policy and immigration.

However, Riggleman’s camp has argued the censure is intended "to punish" the congressman after he officiated a same-sex wedding in July.

“This censure in Rappahannock is part of an ongoing effort to punish Denver Riggleman for his recent officiation of a same-sex wedding. Denver Riggleman has an excellent conservative voting record that has brought jobs back to the 5th district,” Riggleman spokesman Joe Chelak told The Hill in a statement earlier this month after the censure. 

"Denver Riggleman will continue to fight to make the Republican party a big tent party.”

Critics of Riggleman have denied that the same-sex wedding is the reason behind the censure, arguing he has stood consistently with GOP leadership instead of voting in the best interest of his district and alleging he “ignored everyone’s emails and phone calls all from Republican voters who had supported him."

“Congressman Riggleman and his hired hands want to portray all criticism of his votes in Congress as being cover for bigotry and homophobia. This is not only untrue, it’s a despicable unprecedented slander at his own constituents,” one Good supporter who declined to be named told The Hill.

The district was previously represented by former Rep. Tom GarrettThomas (Tom) Alexander GarrettLiberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Ethics investigation finds outgoing House Republican made staff unload groceries, dog-sit MORE (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group Good has vowed to join in elected. 

Riggleman, meanwhile, has received key endorsements on the right, including from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.

Falwell recently called on Republicans in Virginia’s 5th District to “unite and become a big tent party.”

“It is my understanding that certain leaders of the Republican Party in the 5th district are attempting to exclude you and others because of social issues. I was told they are assuming that because you officiated a gay marriage recently, that you are not socially conservative,” Falwell wrote in his letter endorsing Riggleman on Sept. 4.

“I believe that excluding other conservatives over issues that have already been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court does nothing but help liberals gain more power.”

Good said he expects top GOP figures in the area to come out in support of his candidacy as the race heats up, though he declined to offer any names yet.

“I will just say that my candidacy or my potential — which will soon we realized — candidacy has been greatly received, I've been tremendously encouraged by Republican leadership throughout the district, and from state officeholders, as well as local officeholders, as well as party leaders throughout the district, so I think we all have a tremendous base of conservative Republican support heading into the primary season,” he said.