Washington Post: Denver Riggleman campaign driven by “common sense”
MADISON, Va. — Democrat Leslie Cockburn vowed to resist President Trump while Republican Denver Riggleman promised “common sense” and bipartisanship as the rivals for the 5th Congressional district seat met for their second debate Thursday.
Cockburn, a former “60 Minutes” producer, and Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer and craft distillery owner, are two political newcomers vying for the seat being vacated by freshman Rep. Thomas Garrett (R). Garrett announced in May that he is an alcoholic and would abandon his run for a second term so he could focus on recovery and his family.
From her opening statement to her closing an hour later, Cockburn invoked Trump as the driving force behind her bid.
“I am one of those women who stood up because Donald Trump came into office,” she said at the outset. She wrapped up with “2018 is a blue wave and it is a wave for women.” Unless Democrats retake power, she said, “We are going to lose our democracy because we have people in power who have no respect for institutions.”
Riggleman took a markedly different tack, contending throughout the hour-long debate that he would bring a willingness to work across the aisle in Washington. Riggleman, who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, traces his entry into politics to the battles he endured with government bureaucracy and entrenched liquor interests as he opened Silverback Distillery in 2014. He said his goal was to make the system work for ordinary people.
“Actually, Leslie and I agree on a few things,” he said when the discussion turned to health care, noting that they both believe it is a primary issue. “I don’t think we need an Obamacare. I don’t think we need a Trumpcare. I think we need a ‘Bipartisancare.’”
As for Trump, Riggleman said he would support the president’s policies when they benefit the district, and oppose them when they don’t. He mentioned Trump’s tariffs as a mixed bag — benefiting some farmers, but hurting others.
The candidates appeared before a packed auditorium at Madison County High School. The debate was moderated by Stephen Farnsworth, a University of Mary Washington political scientist and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
Riggleman and Cockburn are competing to represent a largely rural district that stretches from wealthy Washington exurbs to struggling communities on the North Carolina line. Trump won the 5th by 11 points in 2016, even as Hillary Clinton took the state by more than five points. Amid a blue wave the next year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie won the district by nine points even though Democrat Ralph Northam won Virginia overall by the same nine-point margin.
Independent analysts rate the race as “leans Republican.”