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Rig­gle­man marches, chal­lenges Cock­burn to de­bate on home turf

Repub­li­can de­nies cam­paign ties to white na­tion­al­ist move­ment

- By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Iowa · Republican Party (United States) · Democratic Party (United States) · Virginia · Congress of the United States · Capitol Hill · Amissville, Virginia · Rappahannock County · Washington · United States of America · North Carolina · University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill · Isaac Smith · Unity · Facebook · Thomas Garrett, Jr. · Nelson County · Albemarle County · Democratic Party of Virginia · Charlottesville

They weren’t pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rants stump­ing at the same Iowa county fair, but for Repub­li­can Den­ver Rig­gle­man and Demo­crat Les­lie Cock­burn, vy­ing to fill Vir­ginia’s 5th district seat on Capi­tol Hill, the Amissville Fire and Res­cue pa­rade and car­ni­val Thurs­day evening was equally im­por­tant.

So much so that Rig­gle­man, picked last month by Repub­li­can ac­tivists to re­place Rep. Tom Garrett on the Novem­ber bal­lot, told this news­pa­per prior to the pa­rade that if Cock­burn agrees he will come back to her home base of

Rap­pa­han­nock County to de­bate.

And the Cock­burn cam­paign said bring it on. Reached over the week­end, spokesper­son Louise Bruce said “Les­lie would be de­lighted to par­tic­i­pate” in a de­bate against Rig­gle­man in the county seat of Wash­ing­ton, with Septem­ber as the tar­get date.

“I’m right down the road, and I think she lives pretty close, too, so if she’s will­ing, I’m will­ing,” Rig­gle­man said. “As many times as she wants to de­bate, as many times as she wants to talk about pol­icy,

or what the Democrats want to do — which isn’t much, but what­ever they think they’re go­ing to do — I’m game. And I would love to come here to do it.”

As in Cock­burn’s back yard, where the Rap­pa­han­nock County res­i­dent has es­tab­lished a well-or­ga­nized and en­thu­si­as­tic army of sup­port­ers, eas­ily mul­ti­plied across the district as re­flected by her party’s May cau­cuses, when the Demo­crat hand­ily de­feated her three male op­po­nents.

But Rig­gle­man said he doesn’t give sec­ond thought to set­ting foot on his op­po­nent’s home turf.

“No, I bombed the Tal­iban, why would I care about that?”

he asked. “This is my home state. I was born here. She wasn’t. So I’m a Vir­ginian, and there’s no place in Vir­ginia I’m afraid to go.”

In­clud­ing march­ing and press­ing flesh along a crowded Amissville pa­rade route, ac­com­pa­nied by a con­tin­gent of Rap­pa­han­nock Repub­li­cans keep­ing their dis­tance be­hind a hay wagon car­ry­ing Cock­burn and her sup­port­ers, clad in match­ing blue cam­paign shirts. Cock­burn chose not to march in the pa­rade.

Mean­while, asked to sum up his first month of cam­paign­ing, Rig­gle­man, an Air Force in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer­turned-craft dis­tiller from Nel­son County, said: “It’s been fundrais­ing, it’s been get­ting

our staff to­gether, it’s or­ga­ni­za­tional things that we had to do — it’s been a whirl­wind, the learn­ing curve is straight up.”

In ad­di­tion, Rig­gle­man re­vealed that he’s al­ready spent a con­sid­er­able chunk of time hud­dling with Repub­li­can law­mak­ers be­neath the dome of the U.S. Capi­tol.

“I’ve been go­ing to D.C. meet­ing with con­gress­men, meet­ing with other Repub­li­cans, get­ting the lay of the land. I’ve been up there prob­a­bly eight or nine days of the last three-and-a-half weeks,” he dis­closed, “just get­ting a feel for the place. Be­cause I’m go­ing to win, so I bet­ter be ready.”

It was barely a month ago, on May 28, that em­bat­tled fresh­man Con­gress­man Garrett an­nounced he was strug­gling with al­co­holism and there­fore would not seek a sec­ond term. The sur­prise ad­mis­sion fol­lowed a string of un­flat­ter­ing me­dia re­ports about the law­maker, not the least al­leg­ing that Garrett and his wife had con­gres­sional staff per­form­ing their per­sonal chores.

“Tom and I got along very well, he’s a good man,” Rig­gle­man first stressed, when asked to ex­plain how his ap­proach to pub­lic of­fice would

dif­fer from Garrett, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor. “I think some of our poli­cies are go­ing to align, but I think there are some dif­fer­ences based on my knowl­edge of the busi­ness cli­mate right now.

“I think Tom was very fo­cused on cer­tain types of pol­icy . . . he was a le­gal guy,” he said. “But for me, I’m a small busi­ness guy, so I’m low taxes. I’m about crony­ism, be­cause I can’t stand it. I’m about an­ti­cor­rup­tion. I prob­a­bly lean more to put­ting more money into peo­ple’s pock­ets based on just what I’m wired with.”

In ad­di­tion, Rig­gle­man said if elected in Novem­ber the con­stituents would see a lot more of him than they might have of Garrett, who was often crit­i­cized for spend­ing scant time in a district that stretches from North­ern Vir­ginia to North Carolina.

“So right now on Novem­ber 6th, when I win, I will be tran­si­tion­ing my com­pa­nies, all my shares from my dis­tillery. I’m go­ing to be 100 per­cent a con­gress­man,” Rig­gle­man vowed. “I’m in Nel­son County, I’m right in the mid­dle of the district. So I can visit everyone. You’re go­ing to see me more. I think peo­ple are go­ing to get tired of see­ing me.”

As for the big­gest is­sues fac­ing the district, Rig­gle­man

replied: “Jobs, jobs. You see a su­per­heated econ­omy, but it seems like it’s not reach­ing some of the ar­eas of the 5th district that it needs to reach.

“I don’t think you cre­ate more tax­payer funded in­cen­tives,” he con­tin­ued. “I think you dereg­u­late and you start tak­ing away the con­straints for busi­ness growth, and I’m pretty good at that. It’s about keep­ing the gov­ern­ment out of your pocket and out of your lives.”

It did not ap­pear that Rig­gle­man and Cock­burn spoke with each other fol­low­ing the pa­rade. That said, Cock­burn sup­port­ers Kit Goldfarb and Dan Lani­gan of Wash­ing­ton wrote in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor pub­lished to­day that at the end of the pa­rade, when stand­ing near the Demo­cratic hay wagon, “some­one on the Repub­li­can float started shout­ing ‘Lock Her Up’ and other taunts.”

Mean­while, the Cock­burn cam­paign charged last week that Rig­gle­man “re­cently cam­paigned with white na­tion­al­ist Isaac Smith at a Repub­li­can cam­paign of­fice in Albe­marle County.”

“By rolling out the wel­come mat to white na­tion­al­ist Isaac Smith, Den­ver's made it clear where he stands on hate and big­otry,” the Cock­burn re­lease quoted Demo­cratic Party of Vir­ginia Chair­woman Su­san Swecker, who stated that Smith and white na­tion­al­ist Ja­son Kessler were founders of Unity and Se­cu­rity for Amer­ica, “a white su­prem­a­cist group that works to pro­mote rad­i­cal right goals and ped­dle anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries.”

Asked by the Rap­pa­han­nock News to re­spond, Rig­gle­man de­nied cam­paign­ing with Smith. “BS,” he said of his op­po­nent’s ac­cu­sa­tion

A spokesman ac­com­pa­ny­ing Rig­gle­man to Rap­pa­han­nock quickly ex­plained that Smith was at a Repub­li­can com­mit­tee of­fice in Albe­marle County where Rig­gle­man ap­peared three days af­ter be­ing cho­sen to re­place Garrett.

The spokesman shared with the News an Au­gust 2017 Face­book post­ing by Smith, who was also re­port­edly an in­tern for Garrett’s 2016 con­gres­sional cam­paign, in which the young man stated: “I ended my as­so­ci­a­tion with Ja­son Kessler af­ter the first torch­light rally back in May [in Char­lottesvill­e] . . .

“I have con­demned racism ev­ery time it has come up,” Smith posted. “Be­fore the rally I gave in­ter­views to the [Char­lottesvill­e] Daily Progress and the [cen­tral Vir­ginia] Schilling Show de­nounc­ing the Alt-right turn Ja­son has taken. My prior in­volve­ment con­cerned re­mov­ing [Char­lottesvill­e] Vice Mayor Wes Bel­lamy from of­fice and ad­vo­cat­ing non-in­ter­ven­tion­ism and im­mi­gra­tion re­form. That is not what Ja­son stands for; he now stands for start­ing the next civil war.”

 ?? COUR­TESY PHOTO ?? Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dent and Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date Les­lie Cock­burn (sec­ond from left in turquoise shirt) chose to ride on a hay wagon for the pa­rade.
COUR­TESY PHOTO Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dent and Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date Les­lie Cock­burn (sec­ond from left in turquoise shirt) chose to ride on a hay wagon for the pa­rade.
 ?? BY JOHN MC­CASLIN ?? GOP con­gres­sional can­di­date Den­ver Rig­gle­man of Nel­son County be­fore march­ing in Amissville's an­nual pa­rade Thurs­day night.
BY JOHN MC­CASLIN GOP con­gres­sional can­di­date Den­ver Rig­gle­man of Nel­son County be­fore march­ing in Amissville's an­nual pa­rade Thurs­day night.

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