Back in June, Virginia’s 5th Congressional District Republicans held a nominating convention in Lynchburg where they voted out incumbent Representative Denver Riggleman. In his place, they nominated Bob Good, a former Campbell County Board of Supervisors member. Many party delegates voted for Good because they felt Riggleman was no longer in touch with their religious conservative principles, and instead chose a candidate who better reflected those beliefs. Those same beliefs are the reason why VA-05 is now considered a toss-up, and why Bob Good is unlikely to have a long career even if he pulls off a win this November.
Rep. Riggleman’s record as a Congressman is certainly underwhelming, but it isn’t terrible by any means. Politically, Riggleman has a solid conservative voting record and votes more consistently with President Donald Trump than one would expect given the political makeup of the 5th District. In fact, Riggleman was even endorsed by Trump going into his primary. However, that conservative record was irrelevant to Republican leaders in the district after Riggleman officiated the same-sex wedding of two of his campaign volunteers in 2019.
Bob Good’s nomination over Riggleman directly reflects the prioritization of homophobia and an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda over any other issue. Good has argued in the past that his candidacy represents more than opposition to gay marriage, and he has even made his opposition to the Virginia Values Act — an LGBTQ+ equality law Good would have no ability to influence as a Congressman — a key component of his campaign. Good and his campaign have also been tied to the Family Research Council, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as an LGBTQ+ hate group.
Good’s focus on anti-LGBTQ+ policies are nothing short of idiotic from a political perspective. These policies helped Good win the nomination, as the low-turnout convention format encourages an electorate more Conservative than the party at large. In addition, the nominating convention process was a controversial one, with accusations of voter fraud from the Riggleman campaign, as well as issues with the convention being held in Good’s home county. Thus, the results of this nominating convention are not representative of overall conservative voters. In fact, recent polls have found that support for gay marriage is overwhelmingly popular, and that over 70 percent of Americans, including over 60 percent of Republicans, believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve civil rights protections. These trends have increased tremendously in the past decade, and there is little reason to think that those numbers would ever reverse. Yet Good perseveres, telling voters that their “religious liberties are under assault” by a law simply requiring equal treatment to all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
While I won’t waste my breath rebutting Good’s religious liberty argument — which is complete nonsense — it’s worth recognizing that a vote for Bob Good is an endorsement of his ideology. Deciding to vote for Good despite this hateful, homophobic rhetoric effectively implies that voters either explicitly supports Good’s views, or does so implicitly by deciding that an overtly homophobic candidate isn’t a dealbreaker. LGBTQ+ equality, however, is tremendously important as members of the group have seen attack after attack on the rights they have fought hard to win — rights which the public largely supports.
Fortunately, voters in the 5th District seem to recognize what Good’s candidacy represents. He has turned what was originally a safe Republican seat into a toss-up. And while I don’t mean to disrespect Dr. Cameron Webb’s campaign, it takes more than a strong Democratic challenger to narrow a race in a district that just two years ago voted for a congressman with an obsession with bigfoot erotica.
While Good still has a solid chance at winning the election, it begs the question — how long will it take until the voters supporting Good’s anti-LGBTQ+ agenda disappear? Public opinion is trending in favor of LGBTQ+ rights, and the overall demographics of the country are far less favorable to biblical conservatism than ever before. Younger generations are far more likely to be LGBTQ+ and are less likely to be religious than older ones. As the oldest generation continues to pass, one has to wonder whether candidates like Good represent the last stand of an ideology whose support is waning.
While it would be wrong to write a campaign’s obituary before all the ballots are cast, one thing is clear from all this — toppling Riggleman was a mistake for Republicans in the 5th District. Party leaders explicitly chose to reject someone with a social outlook in lockstep with public opinion for someone whose social views reflect a bygone time that will never come back. Bob Good’s hateful views towards LGBTQ+ people are archaic, and his very candidacy is a referendum on whether or not enough voters exist who still share them. Given this, it is unlikely that Bob Good can expect to have a long career unless he learns how to do as this country has done and accept LGBTQ+ rights and move on.
Matt Heller is an opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the author alone.