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Virginia's 'Most Successful' One-Term Congressman Not Looking for a Second Act

Denver Riggleman portrait
Rep. Denver Riggleman

Outgoing Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-5th) has no regrets about his one term in the House of Representatives and no plans to do it again.

“It would have to be a miracle for me to run for Congress,” Riggleman said in an interview. “I would say that it's the best thing I've ever done, worst job I've ever had.”

The Nelson County distiller is proud of his accomplishments -- sponsoring bills that require insurers to cover treatments for congenital abnormalities, boosting research into hemp, and securing funding for training future shipbuilders in Danville. He voted with President Donald Trump roughly 94% of the time.

“I think my legacy is the most successful one-term congressman in history of Virginia,” Riggleman said with a laugh. “Please put ‘Denver laughed’ after that.”

At the same time, the Nelson County distiller says he’s done with the “ring-kissing,” and has no desire to be the “party animal” that politics seems to require. He’d have to be “very angry” to want to run for governor, he said.

“It’d have to be very special circumstances if I ever run for office again,” Riggleman said.

Riggleman said his proudest accomplishment is officiating a same-sex wedding that may have cost him his job -- the first time, he believes, a Republican congressman has done so. Riggleman’s opponent, Bob Good, announced his campaign shortly after the wedding last year, promising to be a “Biblical conservative” in a Republican-leaning, mostly rural district. 

Good won the nominating convention in a church parking lot in June. Riggleman, who preferred a larger primary, maintained the convention was “rigged” because several members of the local GOP committee who took votes on the convention were on Good’s payroll. The Republican Party of Virginia’s central committee updated its party plan to prohibit that behavior in August. 

Since his loss, Riggleman has arguably become Republicans’ loudest critic of conspiracy theories like QAnon. A bipartisan resolution he sponsored condemning the far-right movement -- which claims liberal elites control a Satanic, pedophilic sex trafficking ring -- passed 371-18. He’s also been one of the few Virginia Republicans to congratulate Joe Biden on his presidential victory.

Riggleman said he’s concerned about a spike in violence connected to growing conspiracy movements, like “Pizzagate,” which served as a kind of precursor to QAnon. He pointed to a gunman who wandered into a Washington D.C. pizzeria believing it to be the site of a child sex slave dungeon run by Hilary Clinton.

“There's no way that something like that won't happen again unless we get in front of these awful, ridiculous and dangerous conspiratorial claims from people that are either morons, they're grifters, or they're true believers,” Riggleman said. 

Riggleman also is promoting a new book, “Bigfoot...It’s Complicated,” a play on his longtime fascination with the mystical creature that became a viral flashpoint in the 2018 campaign. A mysterious childhood run-in with something in the woods leads Riggleman “on an ‘official’ investigation into the world of Bigfoot's fervent disciples and their eclectic belief systems,” according to the book’s description. 

“Surprised how much I enjoyed this book,” wrote one reviewer on Amazon. “Everything I have always believed about Bigfoot expeditions is true! Not a let down, just a confirmation.”

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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