Riggleman wins Fifth Congressional District seat

Republican Denver Riggleman defeats Democratic challenger Leslie Cockburn

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Republican Denver Riggleman speaks with supporters Tuesday night at the Blue Mountain Brewery after delivering his victory speech. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Republican candidate Denver Riggleman defeated Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn in the U.S. congressional race for Virginia’s Fifth District seat Tuesday. Riggleman won approximately 54 percent of the total vote, while Cockburn earned about 46 percent of the vote in the Fifth District.

“Right now in the Fifth District, this is the ‘Fighting Fifth,’” Riggleman said Tuesday evening. “Liberty lives here.”

Riggleman will represent the largest district in Virginia. Trump won the Fifth District by 11 points in the 2016 presidential election, even as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took the state by more than five points. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie won the district in 2017 by nine points, even though Democrat Ralph Northam won Virginia overall by a nine-point margin.

Riggleman, a University alumnus, former Air Force intelligence officer and current craft distillery owner, and Cockburn, a former “60 Minutes” producer and investigative journalist, were both political newcomers vying for the seat previously held by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.), who announced in May he would not run for reelection for a second term.

“We have proven that we can a run a campaign with class and integrity and dignity,” Riggleman said. “I think we’ve proven that we can run a campaign on the issues.”

Throughout his campaign, Riggleman raised $1.4 million and has spent $986,554, according to federal campaign finance reports filed in October. His campaign had an average contribution of $1,291 — nearly triple Cockburn’s $441.

In a debate held Sept. 28, Riggleman called for deregulation and said he would support the president when his policies supported the Fifth District. He said he supports a crackdown on illegal immigration, though he supports a guest visa program to support farmers in Virginia.

“There’s a time when I think when everyone has to fight,” Riggleman said during his victory speech. “There's a time when you have three positions you can take when you're going against this sort of government overreach and what we’re trying to do with this liberty movement — you can either be in the feedle position and accept what's happening, you can run away or you can fight.”

Riggleman said his commitment to serving others and making a difference on people's’ lives was what allowed him to win the Fifth District seat. 

“I think everybody has this opportunity to live the American dream … I would never be here if it wasn’t for my family, and what got me here was the belief that all of us have a chance to serve and have to serve,” Riggleman said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “If all of us sort of put our foot in, maybe we can make a difference, because I do believe one person can make a difference.” 

Cockburn has said that she decided to enter the political arena because of mounting frustration over President Donald Trump — a sentiment the Democrats hoped would resonate with voters in Charlottesville and other liberal-leaning pockets in the largely rural district, which spans from northern parts of the state down to the North Carolina border. Some of her goals in the House were to pass environmental legislation, promote free community college and lower student debt in the district.

In a speech to supporters at Three Notch'd Brewing Company in Charlottesville, Cockburn conceded to Riggleman. 

“We’ve looked at the numbers and the gap will be much narrower, but he did win this race, so I want to formally concede to Denver and I wish him well and I hope he can do something positive,” Cockburn said.

Cockburn’s daughter — actress Olivia Wilde — told the crowd to continue with the momentum that came with the campaign.

“I don’t know about you, but that determination that I found through this is only more powerful now, and we have so much work to do,” Wilde said. “But we have made a lot of progress, so please, please, as you ingest all of this tonight, just think about that word progress and think about how you took part in that and take pride in that because I am proud of all of you.”

Breaking with his party, Riggleman supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

At a debate hosted at Piedmont Virginia Community College, Riggleman emphasized the need to balance the science of climate change of climate change with promoting job creation and economic growth through the creation of a non-partisan commission. 

Riggleman will start his term in Congress Jan. 3, 2019.

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