Denver Riggleman has a clear message for detractors in his own party.
“As far as what anybody says about me, I really don’t give a rat’s,” the congressman for Virginia’s 5th District said on Friday. “I’m going to run on what I believe and who I am.”
Riggleman stopped by several locations in Charlottesville on Friday, including Tandem Friends School and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
He is seeking his second term representing the 5th Congressional District, which stretches from Fauquier County to the North Carolina border, and includes Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
Riggleman already has one challenger in Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, who also is an athletics official at Liberty University. Good has said Riggleman “betrayed the trust of the Republican conservative base” after officiating a same-sex wedding in July for two men who volunteered on his campaign.
Riggleman has drawn ire from social conservatives for his stance on same-sex marriage.
“For me, the Republicans should be standing for liberty and if you think of yourself as a Jeffersonian conservative and the fact you don’t want government in your life, I think it’s a very reasonable position,” he said Friday.
Earlier this month, the district’s Republican committee decided to hold a convention to pick the party’s nominee for the 2020 election.
Conventions typically draw more rank-and-file party members to hold the GOP line rather than a district-wide primary in which anyone can participate.
In an interview after his visit at the food bank, Riggleman briefly discussed issues in Washington, D.C., impeachment and his plans for 2020.
Riggleman said that his district’s residents are interested in other issues than impeachment inquiries into President Donald Trump.
The inquiry remains ongoing and a former White House official testified Thursday that Trump’s top European envoy was sent on a “domestic political errand” to start investigations of Democrats, according to the The Associated Press.
“The public seems to be enraptured in some respects by impeachment,” he said. “But when I’m in district, like today, me and you talking is the first time impeachment was talked about.”
The impeachment proceedings, he said, are allowing other issues such as rural broadband and the opioid crisis to fall through the cracks.
“There are so many things that people aren’t paying attention to,” he said.
Riggleman is focusing on two initiatives for the end of 2019 and the start of 2020.
He wants to push to continue loosening regulations on industrial hemp. He said the product is vital to Southside, where tobacco farmers are struggling to find another crop.
Riggleman is also pushing for a vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement by the end of the month.
The agreement, signed on Nov. 30, 2018, would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was passed in 1994. The USMCA requires congressional approval, but has not yet come to a vote.
Riggleman stopped by the food bank to discuss the impact of federal policies on the nonprofit.
Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, discussed the need for Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which provides funding for summer meal programs for children.
The legislation was last fully authorized in 2010 for a five-year period. Since 2015, it has only been approved as part of stopgap spending measures.
McKee also advocated for revisions to the act to give more flexibility to local organizations.
McKee said the act requires organizations to feed children as a group along with some measure of educational activity to receive funding.
Children who receive free and reduced-price lunch are eligible for the program.
“In the summer, they have no access to those meals so it’s a real hardship on their families,” he said. “What food banks across America is looking for is more flexibility to bring food to rural areas and distribute it to children.”