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Good and McGuire clash in 5th District; loyalty to Trump a factor

Not far from where Rep. Bob Good defeated his previous Republican challenger in a 2022 convention at Hampden-Sydney College, he recently spoke to a crowd of about 50 in an event room at Charley’s Waterfront Cafe.

“I was ‘too conservative’ and now I’m ‘not conservative enough,’” said Good, speaking of how his opponents in both parties have classified him over the years.

The two-term congressman now faces a challenge from state Sen. John McGuire of Goochland in a June 18 primary in which the degree of loyalty to former President Donald Trump has become a litmus test.

The GOP nominating contest likely is tantamount to victory in a sprawling, conservative 5th District that includes all or part of 24 counties and cities. The district extends from Albemarle County south to Halifax County and Danville. In the Richmond area, the district includes western Hanover County and all of Louisa, Goochland and Powhatan counties. In 2022, Good beat Democrat Joshua Throneburg by 15 percentage points.

In December, Good was elected chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a cohort of Congress’ most conservative members. His firebrand version of politics has meant little of his legislation becomes law, but he has bolstered right-leaning sentiments in Congress while consistently supporting reduced government spending and tightened security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But he has made enemies, too, as one of eight Republicans who voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October. McGuire and some other conservatives have called into question Good’s loyalty to Trump after he initially backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the GOP presidential nomination. Good switched to Trump after DeSantis dropped out of the contest.

McGuire, a former Navy SEAL first elected to the state legislature in 2017, did not make himself available for an interview for this story. He told supporters in a recent email alert: “Bob Good has not accomplished a thing for Virginia’s 5th District except shrinking us down to a one vote House majority and backstabbing Trump again and again.”

Good, in turn, calls McGuire a “perpetual candidate” who has announced multiple bids for Congress in recent years and who declared his 5th District run last November days after he was elected to the state Senate.

Unlike the 2022 convention where roughly 2,000 of the district’s more than 700,000 people participated, voters around the district have the chance to head to the polls or mail in a ballot this summer.

A mile from the Farmville cafe where Good spoke to attendees and mingled with the crowd is a store selling Trump-themed merchandise — with a McGuire campaign sign plastered to the front window.

In February, the owner kicked Good out of the store’s Feb. 17 grand opening, which McGuire attended, an incident that made headlines around the commonwealth. Store owner Karen Angulo said she had agreed to let McGuire use the store for a “meet and greet.”

Though Good and McGuire share similarities in policy stances as conservative Republicans, the primary will test the shades of red in the district as well as fealty to Trump, the once-and-possibly-future president.

Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination on June 18: business executive Gloria Witt of Amherst County; Gary Terry, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Danville area; and Paul Riley of Albemarle, an Army veteran who works with a defense contractor.

The district has not elected a Democrat to Congress since 2008, when Tom Perriello edged out Rep. Virgil Goode by 727 votes as Barack Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia for president since 1964.

The Trump test

Nearly every campaign email from McGuire refers to Good as a “RINO” — or a Republican in name only — or a “Never Trumper.” Good, who had backed Trump in 2020, endorsed DeSantis in May 2023. Shortly after DeSantis dropped out of the presidential race, in January, Good immediately reendorsed Trump.

“By definition, you can’t be a ‘never something’ that you have documented evidence that you currently are [a supporter of],” Good said.

Asked to elaborate on his reasoning for the switch, he declined.

In a January interview, Good cited the prospect of DeSantis serving eight years as president instead of four and the potential political damage to Trump from multiple criminal indictments.

“I was concerned about the political prosecution of President Trump,” said Good, blaming the indictments on “these egregious prosecutors who are simply after him for political reasons.”

While speaking with his audience in Farmville, he referred to Trump as “the best president of my lifetime.”

Trump has yet to endorse either candidate in the race. McGuire, however, was a featured speaker during Trump’s March 2 rally in Richmond, which Good attended in the crowd.

“Our civilization is at stake,” McGuire told the crowd at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. “President Trump stands between us, the American dream and total chaos, madness and anarchy.

“You know, in 2016 we had the House, we had the Senate — President Trump had both of them — but we had a few disloyal Republicans. They tried to block his agenda.

“Now I love serving you in the General Assembly. I love my state Senate [Republican] caucus. But I’m running for Congress because we can’t let that happen again.”

Good objected to the Electoral College certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump. McGuire attended the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington — though he asserts he did not participate in the violence at the U.S. Capitol. A member of Good’s staff also attended the event with the former chair of the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee, but they say they did not storm the Capitol.

Trump’s presence looms large over the Republican Party amid this year’s congressional and presidential elections. Some pundits think this may be reason for Good to be nervous.

All good for Good?

“Good is in a really unique position because he’s managed to make enemies both in the Trump wing of the party and in the McCarthy wing of the party,” said Erin Covey, an analyst with the Cook Political Report. “McCarthy is starting to ramp up his revenge tour on all the Republicans who voted to oust him, so Good is a target on that list.”

Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and a 5th District resident, concurs.

“Good has burned a lot of bridges,” he said.

It’s the Trumpian bridge, which Good has tried to repair, that has made his reelection bid a target for some Republicans.

In January, Chris LaCivita, a top adviser for Trump’s campaign, told Cardinal News in a text message that Good “won’t be electable when we get done with him.”

Meanwhile, Main Street Partnership, a national political action committee that has typically supported more moderate Republicans, is focusing half a million dollars to defeat Good.

It’s concerning for former 5th District Rep. Denver Riggleman, who weighed in on the matter on X.

He likened the PAC’s support of McGuire to “election denier vs. election denier.”

“If they had a shred of decency or love for the USA they would support ANYONE AGAINST these two amoral stains on America’s underwear,” wrote Riggleman, who lost the seat after Good beat him for the GOP nomination in 2020.

Good first challenged Riggleman after the incumbent congressman officiated a same-sex wedding in 2019 for two of his former campaign volunteers.

Good, a former Campbell County supervisor, beat Riggleman in a drive-up convention at Tree of Life Ministries in Campbell. Riggleman has since gone on to serve on the Jan. 6 Commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

With Good and McGuire both pledging to support Trump and sharing support for core conservative principles, a question for Republican-leaning voters becomes: Who is most trustworthy?

McGuire’s loyalty issue

On trust to support Trump, McGuire stresses that he’s the one to rely on.

Tammy Purcell, a local journalist who produces the Engage Louisa newsletter, said McGuire could also attract people who are not necessarily loyal to a political party but feel loyal to the former president.

“I think that you definitely have folks who show up to vote for Donald Trump — they don’t show up to vote, necessarily, for the Republican Party,” Purcell said. “And I think that John is very aware of that. I think John is cultivating those voters.”

Speaking at Trump’s March 2 rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, McGuire said: “I’ve been with President Trump since the beginning, since he came down the escalator,” a reference to the scene at Trump Tower in New York when Trump announced his first run for president on June 16, 2015.

But some have called into question McGuire’s loyalty to local and regional legislative constituents.

Good has been able to secure endorsements closer to McGuire’s northern part of the district as some local Republicans reeled in from his congressional announcement days after winning his state Senate seat. His challenge of Good, which he previously said he would not do, prompted backlash from the Goochland Republican Committee, which passed a resolution of “no confidence” in McGuire once he announced his run for Congress.

Purcell, whose Louisa newsletter tracks local and regional politics in that northern portion of the district, said the effects of local pushback are yet to be seen. While primaries typically have lower turnout than general elections, it’s the most tuned-in voters who show up for primaries

McGuire’s bids for office

McGuire served in the House of Delegates from 2018 to January of this year. In 2020, he lost the 7th District GOP nomination for Congress to Del. Nick Freitas of Culpeper. McGuire initially planned to seek the 7th District GOP nomination again in 2022, but after new boundaries moved the 7th District to Northern Virginia, McGuire announced in February 2022 that he would run for the state Senate in the newly drawn 10th District, which includes all or part of 10 counties, many of them in the 5th Congressional District.

His 2023 nomination contest for the state Senate, against Louisa County Supervisor Duane Adams, became heated with accusations that McGuire was using the position as a steppingstone to run for Congress again.

In contrast, Good stresses that he has run for only two offices: Campbell County Board of Supervisors and Congress. He alleged that McGuire “lacks integrity” and seeks a “relentless pursuit of the next thing on the political ladder.”

In January, McGuire skipped part of a day of Virginia’s legislative session to campaign for Trump in Iowa ahead of the caucuses. He missed votes for a committee he serves on, and two of his bills up for consideration in another committee had to be rescheduled.

In his campaign literature, McGuire has featured a picture of Trump and himself giving a thumbs up together.

While Trump has yet to weigh in formally on the candidates, they have each garnered boosts from some of Congress’ most conservative members. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has campaigned for Good, while Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene supported McGuire in a video last month. Greene was unable to attend campaign events with McGuire because she had to be in Congress to take votes.

In her video, Greene asserted that the “backstabbers” like Good who were not always endorsing Trump are “everything wrong with the Republican Party.”

‘A classic primary’

For all the insults each campaign hurls about lack of loyalty or integrity, Sabato from the Center for Politics said the nuances are the distinction between the candidates.

Both candidates support stricter immigration and border laws, life-at-conception legislation and the Second Amendment.

“This is a classic primary,” Sabato said. “In our highly polarized system, members of the same party really don’t differ from one another all that much. So they have to exaggerate the few differences that are there.”


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