Rig­gle­man dashes Cock­burn bid to turn red 5th a shade of pur­ple

➤ ‘It was a good race… I wish Leslie all the best’ ➤ Rapp vot­ers back Repub­li­can over lo­cal can­di­date

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By JoHn Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Repub­li­can Den­ver Rig­gle­man, a cen­tral Vir­ginia dis­tillery owner and late­comer to the 5th district con­gres­sional race, de­feated Demo­crat Leslie Cock­burn, a res­i­dent of Rap­pa­han­nock County, in Tues­day’s midterm elec­tion.

With all 330 district precincts re­port­ing, Rig­gle­man se­cured 165,107 votes (53.24 per­cent) to Cock­burn’s 144,493 (46.59 per­cent). There were 540 write-ins.

“It was a good race,” an elated Rig­gle­man told the Rap­pa­han­nock News by tele­phone late Tues­day night.

Prais­ing his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, he said it’s time to “move on, and work at what’s best for Vir­ginia. One gets pretty emo­tional right now af­ter such a long and hard­fought race. I wish Leslie all the best.”

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Cock­burn wrote to this news­pa­per: “We ran a great cam­paign in an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult district. It will have the last­ing ef­fect of giv­ing peo­ple hope from Danville to Fauquier and in­spir­ing oth­ers to take up the fight.”

It was be­yond a sat­is­fy­ing vic­tory for Rig­gle­man, a U.S. mil­i­tary vet­eran who up un­til Elec­tion Day was seen as run­ning neck and neck with Cock­burn, a for­mer in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist. Just re­cently the 5th district was la­beled a “toss up” by the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia’s Larry Sa­bato, although in­ter­nal GOP polling had given Rig­gle­man a 10 per­cent­age point lead.

Af­ter vot­ing early Tues­day in Af­ton, Rig­gle­man and his wife Chris­tine hit the road for a full day of last-minute cam­paign­ing. He vis­ited Bedford, Franklin, Pitt­syl­va­nia, Ap­po­mat­tox, Flu­vanna, and Albe­marle coun­ties, as well as the city of Danville on the North Carolina border. He then headed back north to await elec­tion re­turns at a restau­rant brew­ery near his home.

Even in her home base of Rap­pa­han­nock County, Cock­burn didn’t fare as well as some might have ex­pected. Rig­gle­man cap­tured 2,040 of Rap­pa­han­nock’s votes (52.56 per­cent) to Cock­burn’s 1,835 (47.28 per­cent). There were six write-ins.

Vot­ers sur­round­ing Ch­ester Gap went over­whelm­ingly for Rig­gle­man, giv­ing the Repub­li­can more than 71 per­cent of the tally (233 votes to Cock­burn’s 93). In Amissville, it was a sim­i­lar out­come — 65 per­cent of the bal­lots went to Rig­gle­man (460 votes to 251).

In Castle­ton, 53 per­cent of vot­ers pre­ferred Rig­gle­man (324 votes) com­pared to Cock­burn’s 47 per­cent (290 votes). It was closer in the precinct sur­round­ing Wash­ing­ton, where Rig­gle­man gar­nered 370 votes (51 per­cent) to Cock­burn’s 357.

The only two Rap­pa­han­nock precincts that went for the Demo­crat sur­rounded the vil­lages of Sperryville and Flint Hill. Poll go­ers in the for­mer awarded Cock­burn 355 votes (54 per­cent) to Rig­gle­man’s 305, although in Flint Hill she barely edged her op­po­nent, 202 votes to 197.

The pro­gres­sive plat­form of Cock­burn, em­braced cer­tainly by Democrats but not nearly the num­ber of Repub­li­can crossovers she banked on to put her over the top, fol­lowed more than a year of grass­roots or­ga­niz­ing by the can­di­date in 21 coun­ties stretch­ing from North­ern Vir­ginia to North Carolina — a district larger than New Jersey.

Cock­burn, who sought to be­come the first woman elected to James Madi­son’s for­mer seat, logged some 85,000 miles on her car dur­ing the cam­paign, us­ing her home in Rap­pa­han­nock County as her pit stop.

Driven to run for Con­gress by the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, she im­me­di­ately pledged to pro­tect the Af­ford­able Care Act, ad­vo­cate for Medi­care for all, fight opi­oid ad­dic­tion, pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and im­mi­grant fam­i­lies, work to re­store ra­cial har­mony, and fight for women’s equal rights, work and pay — a plat­form con­trary to the pres­i­dent’s White House agenda.

Once the race was de­clared for Rig­gle­man, Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com-

mit­tee spokes­woman Mad­die An­der­son stated of Cock­burn: “The Democrats put forth one of the most rad­i­cal can­di­dates in the coun­try, and it mas­sively back­fired. Den­ver Rig­gle­man fits the district and will rep­re­sent Vir­gini­ans well. The NRCC is proud to con­grat­u­late Con­gress­man-elect Den­ver Rig­gle­man.”

A prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist, film­maker and author, Cock­burn said it was mainly Trump’s “at­tacks” on the Fourth Es­tate that sealed her bid for Capi­tol Hill, “be­cause he was point­ing at re­porters and say­ing you are the enemy of the peo­ple, and that is some­thing that is very un Amer­i­can and shock­ing. And to do that to the FBI? It’s kind of be­yond be­lief. But it means we all bet­ter stand up and do some­thing about it.”

And no­body, Rig­gle­man in­cluded, can’t say she didn’t try. On Tues­day morn­ing, with heavy rain­fall stream­ing off her “Town of Far­mville” um­brella, Cock­burn ar­rived at her Rap­pa­han­nock County cam­paign of­fice in Huntly, where she re­minded her vol­un­teers and sup­port­ers that “rain never stopped a tsunami.” But there would be no tsunami, and the Demo­cratic blue wave that lifted sev­eral other Vir­ginia can­di­dates never reached the 5th district.

The can­di­date and her Ir­ish-born hus­band, jour­nal­ist An­drew Cock­burn, cast their bal­lots — he for the very first-time as an Amer­i­can — at their home precinct in Castle­ton. From there, like her op­po­nent, Cock­burn headed south into the sprawl­ing district for what would be her fi­nal day of cam­paign­ing.

In an in­ter­view with the Rap­pa­han­nock News in Sperryville last De­cem­ber, five months af­ter she an­nounced

her can­di­dacy, Cock­burn ex­pressed con­fi­dence that 2018 would be the year for women — across the coun­try, on Capi­tol Hill, and into the 5th district of Vir­ginia, where her ul­ti­mate aim was to un­seat Repub­li­can Rep. Tom Gar­rett.

But un­be­knownst to ev­ery­body, Gar­rett in a few months’ time would an­nounce that he was fight­ing al­co­holism and would not seek a sec­ond term. And it wouldn’t be un­til June that Rig­gle­man was cho­sen by district GOP lead­ers to face Cock­burn. It wasn’t too many days later that the new Repub­li­can can­di­date ar­rived in Rap­pa­han­nock County to march in Amissville’s 4th of July pa­rade.

“That was right at the be­gin­ning of my cam­paign, I’d just got­ten in, and I was pretty con­fi­dent then,” Rig­gle­man ac­knowl­edged to this news­pa­per Tues­day night. “But not too much later . . . I wasn’t as con­fi­dent. It was a lot harder, a lot more dif­fi­cult than I thought it would be.”

And while Rap­pa­han­nock is home to Cock­burn, Rig­gle­man as­sured his sup­port­ers here that they will be see­ing plenty of him as their rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the U.S. Con­gress.

“I be­lieve I con­nected with Rap­pa­han­nock,” he said. “Rap­pa­han­nock, you know, is close to my home­town [of Manas­sas]. I think I’m one of the last [elected con­gress­men] born or raised in Vir­ginia on ei­ther side [of the po­lit­i­cal aisle].

“So you’ll be see­ing a lot of me in the district. I think some will be happy to see me and oth­ers will be tired of see­ing me. It’s the big­gest district in the state, 21 coun­ties, and I’m go­ing to spend time in ev­ery one of them. I’m go­ing to be ac­tive.”


As a can­di­date Repub­li­can Den­ver Rig­gle­man of Nel­son County marched in Amissville’s an­nual pa­rade last sum­mer.

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