Earlier this month, the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives endured a nearly unprecedented five-day, 15-ballot fight for that position due in no small part to the man who represents Charlottesville in Congress.
Republican Rep. Bob Good of Campbell County was a “Never Kevin,” a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus who voted as part of a 21-member bloc opposing front-runner Kevin McCarthy of California. In the end, Good eventually joined fellow far-right Republicans Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Eli Crane of Arizona and Matt Rosendale of Montana, who all voted “present” in the final vote, a move that let McCarthy take the speakership on the 15th ballot on Jan. 7.
“Don Quixote jousted,” quipped Albemarle Republican Chairman John Lowry.
But what does the recent spectacle mean to Good’s 5th Congressional District?
Good won’t say. At least, he won’t tell The Daily Progress, which has reached out to him and his office on multiple occasions since McCarthy was named speaker.
Good won the 5th District seat handily in 2022, pulling 61% of the vote. But he secured only 12.5% of the vote in the city of Charlottesville and 33.1% in surrounding Albemarle County, where his Democratic opponent Josh Throneburg attracted the most support.
“I do believe that 5th District Republicans have to be very happy about what happened,” Lowry told The Daily Progress. “His small group, little David, got Goliath to agree to things that, for conservative Republicans, have got to warm the cockles of their heart.”
Although the concessions haven’t been formally announced, they’re said to include a rollback on discretionary spending, an end to omnibus spending bills, a ban on raising the debt limit without a vote and the creation of a new subcommittee on “government weaponization.” That last item might curtail any future Justice Department probes into former President Donald Trump’s handling of records and attacks on the 2020 election results.
President Biden earned 74 more electors and 7 million more votes than Trump, yet Good was among the 139 House Republicans who, on that now infamous date of Jan. 6, 2021, voted to overturn the results of the 2020 Electoral College.
He has also used terms such as “hoax” and “phony” to describe measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He appeals to a very devout constituency,” said Lowry. “They’re going to love him even more.”
But Lowry’s predecessor takes a dimmer view of the situation.
“Good’s gambit was ill-advised, intemperate and ineffective,” former Albemarle Republican Chairman George Urban told The Daily Progress. “Bob came for the king and whiffed.”
Urban said that Good damaged his standing with leadership and with fellow Republicans in the House.
“Whether it’s committee assignments, appropriations important to the district or simply influencing legislation, such a high-profile gambit, unfortunately, only damages his ability to serve his district effectively,” said Urban.
Good said during the contest that his gambit had merit.
“I am fighting for reforms to rules in the House that will decentralize power from an elite few and make it easier for me to represent my constituents in Congress,” he said in one statement.
But the former Albemarle Republican chairman disagreed.
“Good may try to claim some credit for the concessions that McCarthy made, but he was clear his goal was to stop McCarthy, not to negotiate concessions,” said Urban.
Charlottesville and Albemarle may have preferred Good’s 2022 Democratic challenger, but the community is an island of blue in a sea of red.
“It’s such a conservative district and especially south of here,” said Lowry.
Lowry said that when the local GOP threw a preelection rally for Good in October, they got a hint about the brewing speakership battle.
“Bob said, ‘Well, I’m going to think deeply on it,’” recalled Lowry. “It was clear at that time that he had some reservations.”
“I came to Washington to challenge the status quo, bring transformative change to Congress and protect the interests of the American people, and I intend to keep that promise,” Good wrote in a Jan. 6 op-ed in the New York Times.
Republican Denver Riggleman, the previous 5th District representative who Good defeated in a 2020 primary, contends that Good listened to the wrong people when preparing for battle on the House floor.
“He said he had hundreds of people telling him that he shouldn’t vote for Kevin McCarthy,” Riggleman told The Daily Progress. “Well, I don’t know if his math is that good because there’s about 750,000 people in the 5th District.”
Riggleman, who lives in Nelson County, said Good should have listened to the general public or at least to more typical Republicans.
“He’s a puppet for the local committees and the local committee chairs,” says Riggleman. “He’s just trying to appease a very small subset of the 5th District.”
Exactly what private concessions may have been made to Good and others in the Freedom Caucus to make them budge is not yet known, but there’s concern they include a provision to allow just one member of the GOP to call for a vote to remove the speaker. Another private deal would place additional Freedom Caucus members on the so-called traffic cop of Congress, the House Rules Committee.
Such private deals led Riggleman to brand McCarthy a SINO, or “Speaker In Name Only.”
“Crazy has more energy than sanity,” Riggleman tweeted amid the speakership battle.
Veteran pundit Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said he isn’t sure if Good emerged weaker or stronger from the fight over McCarthy’s speakership.
“Did Good paint a big target on his back by being so vociferously opposed to the new speaker?” asked Sabato. “Or is he protected because McCarthy only has a five-vote margin and the speaker needs every vote on the floor?”
Sabato’s venerated crystal ball seems somewhat cloudy.
“My guess is McCarthy won’t go out of his way to provide the 5th District with anything special, but at least for this term he can’t afford to piss off anybody in his party,” Sabato said.
Karen Combs, the chair of the Albemarle County Democrats, is skipping predictions entirely.
“I have no comment on that circus,” Combs told The Daily Progress. “We are focusing on the races in 2023.”